Disney Parks are designed to handle massive crowds. The Magic Kingdom can allegedly hold more than 100,000 guests, but through phased closures Disney limits park attendance to levels more conducive to guest safety and enjoyment.

How to Beat the Crowds

The most crowded times of year are typically around Easter and between Christmas and New Year's Eve, but July 4 and other days are occasionally very busy. If avoiding these days where the parks may close to some guests is important, consider joining Touring Plans and utilizing our Crowd Calendar, which recommends the best parks for every day of the year.

For those braving some of the year’s busiest days, showing up at park opening and having a Touring Plan are critical for successful touring (and, we'd argue, for your sanity). Finally, note that those staying at Disney Resorts are guaranteed access to a Disney World theme park, but this does not mean that you will be able to get into the park of your choice, nor does it mean that you will enjoy yourself in an extremely crowded park.

Likelihood of Park Closure

All four Disney World theme parks have reached some level of closure in the past. As the most visited theme park in the world, Magic Kingdom is the park most likely to experience capacity-based closures during busy times of year. Due to its size, Epcot is the least likely to close, and has not done so in recent memory. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom rarely close, but their smaller capacities still make them more likely to close than Epcot.

To be specific, Magic Kingdom closes, on average, around 6 days per year. New Year’s Eve and July 4 are always two of them, often getting up to a Phase 3 closure (see below). Two to four other days during Christmas week can be expected each year as well, although those rarely go above Phase 2. The years where Easter week falls during late-March or early-April can also see closures due to the Easter break/Spring Break overlap.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom have each only closed twice in the past 5 years. Both hit a Phase 2 closure on December 28, 2011, and each reached that same level during Christmas week of 2009.

The two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) are also capable of reaching capacity. Of the two, Typhoon Lagoon is less likely to close for crowds, having done so only 7 times in the past 5 years. Of those seven, 3 times were during Easter week, once was on Memorial Day weekend, and the other 3 in July. Generally, Typhoon Lagoon is much more likely to close for thunderstorms, cold weather, or technical issues than crowds.

Blizzard Beach closes for heavy crowds quite a bit more often than its sister waterpark, with the peak being a whopping 8 closures in 2010. The past two years, however, have only seen one crowd-related closure each. Like Typhoon Lagoon, if there are closure they will come during the Easter break or July.

Parking

Typically parking lots close for capacity-related reasons before the theme parks do, even if the park itself is not at a phased closure yet. When this happens, Disney may divert cars to an alternate parking lot and provide bus transportation to the park whose lot is closed. For example, sometimes the Hollywood Studios lot fills and guests are diverted to the gigantic Epcot parking lot. When this happens, follow posted signs and instructions carefully.

Closure Phases

Disney uses different closure "phases" to gradually restrict the types of guests allowed into a theme park. Closures start at Phase 1 and progress up to Phase 4, where no additional guests of any sort are allowed into the park. Phased closures do not necessarily last all day: for example, if Magic Kingdom is under a Phase 4 closure at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas, sufficient guests might leave by 7:00 p.m. that all restrictions on park entry are lifted.

Note that what is below is what we believe to be true; however, Disney does not publish its park closure procedures and may change its practices at any time.

Phase 1 Closure

Casual visitors are turned away at the automobile toll plazas. This means that people without tickets, those with one-day, single-park tickets, and those intending to use cast member passes will not be allowed to park.

Other guests may enter such as:

  • Those with multi-day or multi-park tickets
  • Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those re-entering the park that day.
  • Those "hopping" from another park.
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
  • Those arriving via Disney transportation

The following are dates within the past 5 years when Walt Disney World parks have reached, yet not gone past, a Phase 1 capacity closure:

  • Magic Kingdom: December 25, 26, and 29, 2014

Phase 2 Closure

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those re-entering the park that day.
  • Those "hopping" from another park.
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
  • Those arriving via Disney transportation

The following are dates within the past 5 years when Walt Disney World parks have reached, yet not gone past, a Phase 2 capacity closure:

  • Magic Kingdom: April 8 and 9, 2009; December 28 and 30, 2009; December 29, 2010; December 25 and 28, 2011; December 24, 25, and 30, 2012; December 25 and 30, 2013; July 4, 2014; December 31, 2014.
  • Hollywood Studios: December 29, 2009 and December 28, 2011
  • Animal Kingdom: December 28, 2009 and December 28, 2011

Phase 3 Closure

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.

The following are dates within the past 5 years when Walt Disney World parks have reached, yet not gone past, a Phase 3 capacity closure:

  • Magic Kingdom: April 7, 2009; December 29 and 31, 2009; March 30, 2010; December 25 and 31, 2010; December 31, 2011; December 27, 28, and 31, 2012; January 2, 2013; March 25-28, 2013; July 4, 2013; December 31, 2013.

Phase 4 Closure

The park and parking lot are closed to all arriving guests. The only Phase 4 Closure in the past 5 years has been Magic Kingdom on April 7, 2009.

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