Disney Capacity Closures – Looking Back and Guessing the Future

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It’s that time of year again. Sometime between now and January 1 every person on this planet will visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland. It’s true. I was there last year and I know I saw every woman ever born in line for the ladies’ room on Main Street.

We have gotten a few emails from readers wondering about capacity closures in Florida and California. Walt Disney World’s procedures are explained on our web site. Disneyland’s procedures are different – first they stop selling tickets, then they close the turnstiles to incoming guests. I took a trip on the WayBack Machine and looked up what happened in 2009 and 2010. Here is a table of the closures:

12/25 12/26 12/27 12/28 12/29 12/30 12/31 1/1
Magic Kingdom Phase 3 (2010) Phase 3 (2009) Phase 3 (2009) Phase 2 (2009, 2010) Phase 3 (2009, 2010)
Hollywood Studios Phase 2 (2009)
Animal Kingdom
Disneyland Park 10AM (2010) 10AM (2010)
Disney California Adventure 1PM (2010) 1PM (2010)


All parks eventually reopened to new guests on these days. You also check out our historical crowd levels for last December here on our site.

This information was pulled from several sources, so if I missed something let me know in the comments and I’ll update the chart (list your source if possible).

We hope this helps with your planning. Remember, even on the busiest days, getting to the parks early (REALLY EARLY) and using a touring plan will make things bearable.

Laurel Stewart

Laurel has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1971 when she was negative-15 years old and running the Disney races since 2007. Her favorite attraction is Big Thunder Mountain.

5 thoughts on “Disney Capacity Closures – Looking Back and Guessing the Future

  • November 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Just a few notes..

    If you intend to do NYE you need to arrive early. From the time they start phase closing early morning through the evening fireworks disney does everything they can to keep you from being able to reach a park.

    They try to operate under the theory that if you can reach the gate, you’re allowed in. Seeing as how the fire code would eventually put a stop to that with all of the ways you “could” reach the front gate – they begin to shut down transportation systems.

    The most obvious of course is closing the parking lot. Yes, they “Redirect” and park people elsewhere and offer buses – but they begin to limit those buses. Same for guests coming from resorts, fewer buses begin to run – intentionally. 10 mins between buses becomes 30, 45, 1 hr.. and it’s not because of traffic. They intentionally begin to run fewer and further between to control the flow.

    If you’ve ever been in Epcot for NYE you’ll also notice that as Magic Kingdom reaches capacity in the morning to mid-afternoon fewer and fewer monorails run. Again, this is to keep people from getting from park to park.

    I know it sounds fairly odd, but it is what they do. Think of the flow of people like water into a bucket. Once the bucket starts to get full they start to cut down the flow using the controls at their disposal.

    You can, in fact, drive up to a parking lot and be turned away even if there’s available spaces if the park has had guests arrive from buses and monorails in sufficient numbers.

    Also – Disney controls all their roads and they will change traffic patterns for the capacity days. Be aware of large road construction-style signs directing you to locations and do not expect to take your “usual” driving route anywhere. Also – there are signs that list the parks and have reccessed arrows.

    I wanted to link to a picture, but my image server is down – it’ll have to suffice to say the arrows on these signs are turned to point different directions (follow them – whichever water park is closed for the season is an overflow parking lot) and can be flipped to simply say “Full.”

    Also, do not expect to use the monorail to Epcot to get around midday. They shut it down (guest relations CMs standing guard at the station) and direct monorail resort guests to buses during the peak.

  • November 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’m going to go to the MK this year on 12/31, just to cross that one particular insanity off my bucket list. I’ll try to follow the Holiday Touring Plan, and see how well it works. 🙂

  • November 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks for addressing this, Laurel – and so quickly! Sounds like I wasn’t the only one with this question, since I had submitted my question only this morning! The follow-up comments by R. A. Pederson are very enlightening as well – even if the closure isn’t a complete Phase 4 one, trying to go from one park to another (especially the Magic Kingdom) seems to be fraught with roadblocks both literal and figurative 🙂

  • November 30, 2011 at 11:24 am

    thanks for the info. will be going to magic kindgom on 12/25/11 staying at the contemporary plan to be there early and take advantage of the magic hours

  • February 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Can you explain more about the capacity closing procedures at the two Disneyland parks? For example, are there any stages to the closings at all, perhaps where on-site guests only can enter, or people who have already entered one of the two parks during that day? I will be visiting right after Cars Land is expected to open at DCA (during a time when SoCal AP holders are not blacked out) and am concerned about capacity closings. Any more info about this process would be greatly appreciated!


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