What is a 'Crowd'?

by Fred Hazelton

Sounds like a silly question but it may not be as simple as you think. You might say, "a crowd is a crowd, of course" but do we all define it the same way? When we say that we want to measure how crowded a theme park resort is we might be referring to any one of the following possibilities.

There are lots of other ways too: parking lots, restaurants or how many people are on the bus. All perfectly valid ways to define a 'crowd' and it really doesn't matter which one you choose. All that matters is that the definition is clear and that we all know which one we are using.

Touring Plans Crowd Calendar

We at Touring Plans define a 'crowd' as the average posted wait time for the key attractions between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. We selected this definition for many reasons.

That last one is important. Two guests who tour the Magic Kingdom on the same day may not agree on how the crowd felt. It will depend greatly on their personal perspective: what time of year they usually visit the parks, how experienced they are, what touring plan they used, etc. However, we all ought to agree on what the average posted wait time was between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Feelings Matter

This is not to say that how a crowd 'felt' isn't important. Quite the opposite! Anyone who has tried to navigate Main Street U.S.A. on New Year's Eve knows that it's not just about the wait times. On days like this you can walk to the hub without seeing a single brick beneath your feet. However, most guests judge the crowds by how much they get to see and how long they wait in line. So, a calendar based on wait times is the best way to do that objectively.

What Do The Crowd Levels Feel Like In The Parks?

You can get a good sense of how the parks will feel to you based on our wait times pages. For example, a 70-minute average wait at Space Mountain is a '7' on our scale. If a 70-minute average wait seems reasonable to you, you should feel comfortable at a '7' or '8' day. If it makes you shudder in anguish then stick to the '5's or lower.

If you have dates planned, click on the "view park wait times" on the Crowd Calendar day page you're viewing, or by navigating to it from a park's wait times page (see Magic Kingdom's Wait Times page for reference). You'll be able to see predicted wait times for every attraction for every hour of the day.

If you haven't set your dates yet, or just want to see what the wait times look like in aggregate, visit the pages below to see tables of wait times like the example for Space Mountain below. Use them to get a sense of how crowded each attraction will be:

Magic Kingdom Crowd Levels to Wait Times
Attraction Level 1 Lev. 2 Lev. 3 Lev. 4 Lev. 5 Lev. 6 Lev. 7 Lev. 8 Lev. 9 Level 10
Space Mountain less than 19 minutes 19-25 25-33 33-43 43-54 54-65 65-76 76-87 87-103 more than 103 minutes

Some Notes About Special Events

Special events are scattered throughout the Disney calendar most often between September and June. They involve all sorts of groups including runners, foodies, partiers and Star Wars fans. Corporations will occasionally book events as well, either during park hours or as a closed event. If you are attending an event, check our blog for details on how to tour effectively. If you are not attending, check the list below for information about how you may need to alter your plans.

Gay Days
What is it? An annual, unofficial event where gay, lesbian and bisexual guests visit a park a day
Impact on wait times Modest impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Gay Day-ers can be loud and proud but most guests won't even notice the event is taking place
Tips & Tricks Gay Days rotate daily among the 4 parks, pick another park just in case the turnout is larger than expected

Flower & Garden Festival
What is it? A 10-week festival from early March to mid-May at Epcot
Impact on wait times Little impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Beautiful topiaries around Epcot attract photographers and green thumbs, otherwise little impact
Tips & Tricks Enjoy the park as you would any other time

Food & Wine Festival
What is it? A 7-week festival from late September to mid-November at Epcot
Impact on wait times Minimal
Impact on the park(s)/resort Draws a jubilant, festive mass of foodies and guzzlers to World Showcase, especially on weekends. The large crowds fill the walkways but don't take in attractions
Tips & Tricks Huge crowds and low wait times make a deceiving combo. Avoid Fridays and weekends or stick to Future World. If participating, go early and expect long lines at the pavilions

Holidays Around The World
What is it? Countries around Epcot's World Showcase present their holiday traditions
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Small crowds gather in World Showcase to hear storytellers and admire the decorations
Tips & Tricks Tour normally, check schedules for specific times

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
What is it? Annual early-January weekend of long distance races around the resort
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Hotels are heavily booked and busy, traffic is slower along roadways affected by the race route
Tips & Tricks Take the morning off on race day if you can. Plan a little more time to travel to the park in the morning if you do decide to visit a park.

Star Wars Weekends
What is it? Consecutive weekends in May and June to celebrate all things Star Wars
Impact on wait times Star Tours waits are double the norm, 25% higher at other Studios attractions
Impact on the park(s)/resort Very large crowds of Jedis and Clones invade the Studios but generally remain near the events. Expect bottlenecks near the special activities
Tips & Tricks Great event for fans, non-fans should avoid the Saturday, if possible

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
What is it? Griswold-esque holiday lights that envelope Streets of America
Impact on wait times No impact besides Streets of America
Impact on the park(s)/resort Larger than normal crowds for the first and last night of the season, otherwise crowds match the rest of the park. December 27th to 31st crowds will be prohibitive at the Osborne Lights as they are around the entire resort so arrive early
Tips & Tricks Tour normally (follow your touring plan if crowd calendar shows a '5' or higher), take in the Spectacle just after dusk or right before closing. The lights are impressive, not to be missed

Christmas Parade Taping at Magic Kingdom
What is it? Early December filming of the parade to air on December 25
Impact on wait times Minimal to none
Impact on the park(s)/resort Main Street, U.S.A. is intentionally gridlocked for effect
Tips & Tricks Avoid Magic Kingdom or give yourself extra time to get through the Main Street mob. Strangely, once arriving at the hub the rest of the park is fine

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
What is it? Hard-ticket after hours event at Magic Kingdom, September to early November
Impact on wait times Very low wait times until 4pm
Impact on the park(s)/resort Dressed-up partygoers hit the park late afternoon. Expect lots of little princesses and pirates
Tips & Tricks Park hours are shorter for regular guests so avoid the park. Great choice for a half day though, morning waits will be low

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
What is it? Hard-ticket after hours event at Magic Kingdom, mid-November to mid-December
Impact on wait times Very low wait times until 4pm
Impact on the park(s)/resort Merriment begins late afternoon. Festive atmosphere
Tips & Tricks Park hours are shorter for regular guests so avoid the park. Great choice for a half day though, morning waits will be low

Night of Joy
What is it? After hours event at Magic Kingdom hosting Christian youth
Impact on wait times Low wait times all day
Impact on the park(s)/resort Usually during September low season, the closed event brings a notable abundance of pre-teens to the host park. Your tolerance for pre-teens will dictate your experience
Tips & Tricks Park hours are shorter for regular guests so avoid the park. Great choice for a half day though, morning waits will be low

Cheerleading & Dance World Championships
What is it? National competition for young cheerleaders
Impact on wait times Minimal
Impact on the park(s)/resort Hotels are heavily booked with teens and their families. Expect impromptu rehearsals
Tips & Tricks Events are held at Wide World of Sports, tour the parks normally

Wine & Dine Half Marathon
What is it? Running competition during Epcot's Food & Wine Festival
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Hotels are heavily booked and busy, traffic is slower
Tips & Tricks Take the morning off on race day if you can. If you decide to hit the parks, plan for a little extra travel time to the park entrance

Pop Warner Football Championship
What is it? National early-December competition for young cheerleaders and footballers
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Hotels are heavily booked with pre-teens and families. Value resorts are particularly overrun so if you are staying there your experience will be dictated by your tolerance for the under-13 demographic
Tips & Tricks Events are held at Wide World of Sports, tour the main parks normally

Anniversaries, Media Events & Special Appearances
What is it? Presidential visits, attraction (re)openings & park anniversaries
Impact on wait times Usually no impact unless a particular attraction is the subject of the event in which case the increase in wait time will be proportional to the hype
Impact on the park(s)/resort Designated areas become jam-packed with press, dignitaries and Disney-philes. Security may be tighter
Tips & Tricks These special events can come in various sizes. The official opening event for Star Tours: The Adventure Continues brought all night camp-outs while The Animal Kingdom's 15th anniversary was a subdued celebration. Unless the event interests you, it is better to avoid the designated area or the affected park if possible

Conferences & Corporate Events
What is it? Corporate arrangements for special access to lands or parks
Impact on wait times Minimal impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Corporations may arrange to access a park outside regular hours or access a certain area during park hours
Tips & Tricks Thousands of corporate visitors sound impactful but rarely are so. Avoid the designated area or park if you must but usually touring normally will be fine

Some Notes About Holidays

Holidays can be some of the busiest times of the year. The fact is, most plan their Disney trips around days off work and days when school is not in session. The resort handles extreme crowds very well and most guests have a positive experience in spite of the crowds. Holidays are also when our touring plans work best. The more crowded it is, the more time you'll save by using them.

Like special events, not all holidays are created equal. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving are week long (or more) holidays with perennially extreme wait times but other holidays can be excellent for touring. Some bring an increase to wait times that last a few days while others bring only a small bump in attendance. Our comments below about how the holidays affect wait times are relative to the adjacent days around the holiday. For example, Columbus Day wait times are below average for the year but higher than the other days in October. Here is how the holidays stack up, year to year.

Labor Day
When is it? First Monday in September
Impact on wait times Minimal impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Least crowded of the statutory holidays
Tips & Tricks Tour normally, enjoy the light holiday crowds but choose the park with the lowest crowd level, if possible

Columbus Day
When is it? Second Monday in October
Impact on wait times Significant bump in wait times relative to the adjacent October days
Impact on the park(s)/resort Bump in crowdedness is more noticeable because Columbus Day occurs in low season
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are suggested

Halloween
When is it? October 31
Impact on wait times Modest increase in waits, mostly at the Magic Kingdom. At other parks wait times are actually below average for the year
Impact on the park(s)/resort Slightly busier than adjacent days but equally as festive as the preceding week. Halloween is a month-long affair at Disney World
Tips & Tricks Tour normally, choose the park with the lowest crowd index if possible

Jersey Week
When/what is it? 1st or 2nd week of November New Jersey State Schools off Thursday & Friday
Impact on wait times Waits are double the norm for that season
Impact on the park(s)/resort Though schools are off Thursday and Friday, many Jersey visitors start arriving the previous Saturday and Sunday
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are suggested. The impact of Jersey Week usually fades the following Tuesday

Veterans Day
When is it? November 11
Impact on wait times Modest increase in waits, more significant increase if it overlaps with Jersey Week
Impact on the park(s)/resort Bump in attendance but still relatively low crowds unless it coincides with Jersey Week
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are suggested especially if Veteran's Day and Jersey Week overlap

Thanksgiving Day
When is it? Fourth Thursday in November
Impact on wait times Extremely long lines everywhere
Impact on the park(s)/resort Third busiest week of the year behind Christmas and Easter. Parks, hotels, buses and parking lots overflow with guests
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are mandatory. Arrive early, follow them strictly and check Lines for updates. Crowds start building the preceding weekend and last until the following Tuesday. The further away from Thanksgiving Day, the lower the crowds

Christmas Eve
When is it? December 24
Impact on wait times Very long lines everywhere
Impact on the park(s)/resort Incredibly crowded but incredibly festive
Tips & Tricks Holiday touring plans are mandatory, but crowds are actually worse December 28 to 31

Christmas Day
When is it? December 25
Impact on wait times Extremely long lines
Impact on the park(s)/resort Incredibly crowded but incredibly festive
Tips & Tricks Holiday touring plans are mandatory but crowds are actually worse December 28 to 31. Epcot is a good choice because it handles extreme crowds better than the other parks.

New Year's Eve
When is it? December 31
Impact on wait times Extremely long lines everywhere, busiest day of the year
Impact on the park(s)/resort Incredibly crowded but incredibly festive, especially in the evening
Tips & Tricks Magic Kingdom and Epcot will reach capacity. Arrive early, follow a holiday touring plan and stay all day to enjoy the fireworks. Studios is the lightest park, by far, that hosts fireworks. Animal Kingdom crowds can be surprisingly manageable, a great choice if midnight fireworks are not part of your plans. Magic Kingdom fireworks on December 30th are identical to those on the 31st

New Year's Day
When is it? January 1
Impact on wait times Extremely long lines mid-day and evening
Impact on the park(s)/resort Continuation of the extreme Christmas crowds
Tips & Tricks Early morning crowds (especially at Magic Kingdom) are light and provide the best touring conditions between December 24 and January 2

Martin Luther King Junior Day
When is it? Third Monday in January
Impact on wait times Significant increase in waits compared to adjacent days
Impact on the park(s)/resort Larger crowds than normal in mid-January. It is usually more crowded the preceding Saturday and Sunday than the holiday Monday itself.
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are suggested

Suberbowl Sunday
When is it? First Sunday in February
Impact on wait times No impact unless the host city is within 500 miles of Orlando (Miami, Tampa or Jacksonville). The impact occurs Monday through Wednesday after the game.
Impact on the park(s)/resort If the host city is near enough, fans, press and their families can inundate the resort after game-day. Often the MVP marshalls the Magic Kingdom daytime parade on Monday
Tips & Tricks Tour normally but be cautious of the Magic Kingdom on the Monday after the game

Valentine's Day
When is it? February 14
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort No impact but may coincide with Presidents Week which does increase crowds significantly
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are suggested if February 14th coincides with Presidents Week

Presidents Day
When is it? Third Monday in February
Impact on wait times Very high wait times
Impact on the park(s)/resort Largest crowds since New Year's Day, busy all around. Increase in crowds begins the Thursday before and doesn't fade until the Sunday after
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are strongly suggested all week

Mardi Gras
When is it? 47 days before Easter (between February 3 and March 9)
Impact on wait times Significant increase in waits, extreme increase if overlapping with other February holidays
Impact on the park(s)/resort School breaks in New Orleans bring in substantial crowds. When Mardi Gras overlaps with other February holidays, we see Christmas-like wait times
Tips & Tricks Touring plans suggested. If it overlaps with other February holidays consider touring plans mandatory. Some of the highest wait times we have on record occurred during Mardi Gras

Spring Break
When/What is it? Recess of Schools in March and April
Impact on wait times High to very high wait times depending on how many school boards are in session
Impact on the park(s)/resort Young adults and families flood all parks and resorts
Tips & Tricks The most difficult time of the year to predict crowds, touring plans are mandatory. Check the crowd calendar to see crowd predictions during your spring break. If your break is a different week than the majority, crowds may be modest. Beware of weeks that abut Easter

St. Patrick's Day
When is it? March 17
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Lots of green, Raglan Road at Downtown Disney hosts an all-day party
Tips & Tricks Tour normally, wear green

Good Friday
When is it? Friday before Easter Sunday
Impact on wait times Extremely long lines
Impact on the park(s)/resort All days around Easter are very busy, second only to Christmas
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are mandatory, expect extreme crowds

Easter
When is it? First Sunday after full moon following March equinox
(between March 22 & April 25)
Impact on wait times Very long lines
Impact on the park(s)/resort All days around Easter are very busy, second only to Christmas. But surprisingly, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday have lower wait times than Good Friday and Saturday
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are mandatory, expect extreme crowds. Epcot is likely your best choice, it handles extreme crowds better than the other parks

Easter Monday
When is it? Monday after Easter Sunday
Impact on wait times Very high wait times
Impact on the park(s)/resort All days around Easter are very busy, second only to Christmas although Easter Monday is much lighter than the days leading up to Easter weekend
Tips & Tricks Touring plans are mandatory but crowds are worse on the Friday-Saturday. If there is such thing as a lighter day during Easter weekend this would be it. Likely your best day for Magic Kingdom especially if Sunday night hosted Extra Magic Hours. However, expect large crowds

Cinco de Mayo
When is it? May 5
Impact on wait times Modest increase in waits
Impact on the park(s)/resort Small influx to Mexico pavilion at Epcot otherwise minimal impact
Tips & Tricks Tour normally

Mother's Day
When is it? Second Sunday in May
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Mothers get well-deserved attention
Tips & Tricks Tour normally - call your mother

Memorial Day
When is it? Last Monday in May
Impact on wait times Significant increase in waits relative to adjacent days
Impact on the park(s)/resort Heavy crowds all weekend but crowds are actually larger on the Saturday and Sunday immediately before Memorial Day Monday. The increase in crowds is short lived compared to holidays like Christmas and Easter but at times can be equally as extreme
Tips & Tricks The holiday Monday is surprisingly a better choice for touring the Magic Kingdom, mostly because it usually follows an Extra Hour Evening which draws larger crowds than Memorial Day itself

Father's Day
When is it? Third Sunday in June
Impact on wait times No impact
Impact on the park(s)/resort Fathers get special attention
Tips & Tricks Tour normally

Independence Day
When is it? July 4
Impact on wait times Very high wait times
Impact on the park(s)/resort If July is busy then Independence day is jammed, especially in the evening. Almost as busy on July 3 and July 5
Tips & Tricks Tour in the morning, stake out your nighttime viewing spot early. Magic Kingdom and Epcot may hit capacity. Fireworks on July 3rd are identical to July 4th

More questions?

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for the Crowd Calendar.