The Science Of Disney World Park Recommendations
Our Crowd Calendar shows you the best parks to visit and which parks to avoid, every day for the next twelve months. We base these recommendations on the wait times we've collected in the theme parks and the trends and patterns we've identified in how families visit those parks.
For your travel dates, we recommend visiting the parks listed as "Best Parks" and skipping the ones listed as "Parks to Avoid". Parks that are not listed in either column we have no reason to recommend visiting or avoiding.
Using a Touring Plan is roughly 5 times more important than visiting a Best Park
The #1 way to avoid waiting in line is to use a Disney World Touring Plan. You'll save more time in line using a Touring Plan at a "Park to Avoid" than not using a Touring Plan at a "Best Park."
Should I use the Park Recommendations or the Park Crowd Levels?
The Park Recommendations take into account all of the "touring conditions" in a given day: the park hours, the entertainment schedules, the Extra Magic Hour schedules, special events, and, of course, wait times!
If the only thing you care about is the lowest wait times possible, refer to the Park Crowd Levels page. Those figures represent our estimate of the wait times for each day, and by clicking through you'll be able to see wait time forecasts for every attraction for every hour of the day.
The Park Recommendations Formula
Here is the set of rules we use to determine our park recommendations for the Crowd Calendar:
- A park that has Extra Magic Hour morning cannot be a "Best Park" (more info).
- A park hosting a special event cannot be a "Best Park" - Magic Kingdom Parties excluded (more info).
- The park with the lowest crowd level is recommended.
- The park with the highest crowd level is avoided.
- If there is a 7-day stretch where a park is not recommended then recommend it on the day with the lowest crowd level during that 7-day stretch (aka the 7-Day Rule).
Why can't a Park hosting Extra Magic Hour Morning be a Best Park?
We try to make our park recommendations work for everyone, including those who stay off-site and don't have access to Extra Magic Hours, as well as the vast majority of park guests who don't make it to the park by 8 a.m. or earlier. So here's the rub: unless you get to the park when it opens, you'll have to wait in longer lines. Every minute you miss in the morning has a compounding affect on wait times throughout the day, especially if you're trying to complete a Touring Plan. There is usually a better day to visit the park with Extra Magic Hour Morning!
Of course, if you're an early-riser, on-site guest who has purchased park-hopper tickets, you may want to pass on our recommendations and go for it. Keep an eye on the Per-Park Crowd Levels to see if a park with a morning Extra Magic Hour is best for you. In fact, if you're disciplined enough to get to the parks early, this can be a great touring strategy.
Why can't a Park hosting a special event be a Best Park?
As a rule, we don't recommend parks hosting special events such as Grad Nights, Gay Days, Star Wars Weekends, and special corporate events. These days typically have fewer park hours in which to tour, and while the wait times can be low, there may be an influx of people that will cause bottlenecks around the park. A good example is the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. Guests flock to World Showcase to try the food kiosks, but don't take in the attractions. Weekends during Food & Wine can be some of the busiest in the fall, but the wait times will be relatively low.
One exception to this rule is when the Magic Kingdom closes early for a "hard ticket event," such as Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We've measured that the wait times during these days are some of the lowest of the year. Even though there are fewer park hours for touring, it's difficult to pass up the low wait times during these parties.
On the flip side, if you're planning on attending special events, or if you have the ability to park hop, you may want to pass on our recommendations. Be sure to compare the Per-Park Crowd Levels and the wait time forecasts for that day to make the best decision possible (see this blog post for more info).
A park is recommended as the Best Park because of the "7-Day Rule" -- what is this?
Occasionally there will be a seven-day period in which we don't recommend a specific park at least once. When this happens, we look at the seven day period, and recommend the day with the lowest crowd level for this park. If you're looking at specific day (like this one at the Magic Kingdom), we'll explicitly tell you when we're applying this rule.
What If I Want to Visit a Park on an "Avoid" Day?
Reverse Psychology - Should I Avoid the "Best" Park Because Everyone Will Go There?
"If you tell everyone to head to Animal Kingdom," you ask, "won't that quickly become the most crowded park?" Unfortunately, no! While we'd love to dictate the ebbs and flows of crowds at Walt Disney World, we just ain't that big (yet!). We estimate that less than 1% of people in any park have seen our Crowd Calendar. We monitor wait times every day at every park, so if we do start to influence crowds, we'll be the first to notice.
Should I care about the Park Recommendations during slow times of the year?
The recommendations are equally valuable no matter the crowd level. Whether the crowd is listed as a â€˜9â€™ or a â€˜2â€™ the recommendations will always identify the best choices for that day. Use them as a planning guide to meet the needs of your group.
Shouldn't Magic Kingdom always be more crowded than Epcot, Epcot more crowded than the Studios, etc?
Our reader surveys tell us that people judge the size of the crowds not by how many people are in the park but by how long they have to wait in line. For this reason we base our crowd calendar on wait time data in each park, and compare it to other days at the same park. Thus, we could say that a below average day at the Magic Kingdom with 30,000 people is less crowded than an above average day at Epcot with 25,000 people.
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for the Crowd Calendar.