Pandora: The World of Avatar opens officially at Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017 and crowds will flock to the park to take in the new attractions. Expect to wait 200 minutes or more to experience the new attractions during the first week of operation. We also expect wait times at other Animal Kingdom attractions to increase 15% when the new Pandora attractions open, and we expect that increase to last throughout most of the summer.
The last major addition to a Disney Park was New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. The expansion ended with the opening of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on May 28, 2014, two days after Memorial Day. Wait times at Magic Kingdom rose dramatically after the headliner opened, not just at nearby Fantasyland attractions but across the park. Animal Kingdom doesn’t draw the same crowds that Magic Kingdom does, and Pandora likely won’t have the same draw that New Fantasyland did, but it is reasonable to expect a significant bump in attendance. The new Pandora attractions will see extreme wait times throughout the summer, but we expect rides like Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris to see wait times go up, as well.
As a result, we are updating the Crowd Calendar to reflect the announcement of Pandora’s official opening date. In addition, we are making a few minor updates to other dates and parks in line with our most recent analysis.
Other New Developments That May Affect Crowds
- Disney announced an increase to Walt Disney World ticket prices, with costs going up as much as 10% for certain multi-day tickets. A price increase can lead to a small dip in attendance, either through shorter or fewer trips. What we don’t yet know is how much this price increase will affect crowds, given the opening of Pandora and other developments.
- We expect Disney’s Hollywood Studios to drop its evening Extra Magic Hours program. We also expect the Animal Kingdom to add evening Extra Magic Hours, and Magic Kingdom not to replace its evening parade (at least with anything new or notable) for the next few months. The net effect of those changes should be to push evening crowds to the Animal Kingdom. We’ve never seen this situation before, though, and we don’t know how much the price increase in park hopper tickets will discourage people from visiting a second park per day.
It may take our models up to 30 days to recognize the impact of these changes. We’ll adjust each park’s crowd predictions based on that and post something to the blog explaining the changes as we get them.
What’s Behind These Crowd Calendar Updates
Here is a brief description of what you will see on the latest crowd calendar. As always, the crowd levels are subject to change as they are based on the information available to us at the time we make the predictions. We always encourage you use a touring plan as the best defense against any size crowd – they work, so use ’em!
The rest of February will see some minor changes that reflect dips in wait times we have seen in late January and early February, mostly at Hollywood Studios. The calendar is currently not predicting a large boost in wait times at Animal Kingdom when Rivers of Light begins regular performances but that may have to be revised once we see what happens after February 17. Unless you are visiting specifically to see the show, try to avoid that park, especially in the evening.
March will see some minor changes of one index level scattered throughout the month. Forecasts for Soarin’, Frozen Ever After and Meet Anna & Elsa recently went through some substantial adjustments. For new or refurbished attractions it can take a while to see how the attractions behave in the different seasons of the year so we refresh our models every few weeks to make sure we are keeping current.
Changes in April are minimal with most being a one-point dip. Most of those come in the middle of the month after the Easter holiday has passed. We still expect the post-Easter crowds to be busy however, as many schools are on break. It may be that Animal Kingdom sees a dip in crowds during April and Early May as locals who might normally visit will put it off until the new stuff arrives later on the spring.
May will see some minor changes but mostly increases. It is possible that the late May opening of Pandora will bring large crowds to the other parks as well, especially if Animal Kingdom gets overrun by curious locals. If you plan to be among the first to see Pandora you should plan to arrive very early, well before the sun rises. A good plan might be to wait a week or two and arrive first thing in the morning on a weekday – a rainy day would be best.
Hollywood Studios is the only park that sees some increases of more than one index point in June. Other parks see almost no change except for the occasional drop by one index point. June forecasts may change once we get closer to the summer season and know more about the schedule and how Animal Kingdom’s new attractions are affecting the flow of guests between the parks.
July is looking a little more crowded than our last crowd calendar predicted, especially at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. We saw from New Fantasyland in 2014 that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train brought in large crowds during the busy summer season, we expect Pandora to do the same for Animal Kingdom.
Conversely, our models show that August will be a quieter month for Animal Kingdom as the novelty of the new attractions begins to wear off. Some estimates for Magic Kingdom did go up a point or two in August however, mostly in the later part of the month.
September looks great as always! Lots of crowds in the lower part of our scale. If you want to see crowd levels of ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’ then September is the month for you. Some crowd levels in late September and early October did go up a few points as these latest updates include a complete analysis of what we saw in Fall 2016. We expect wait times to repeat themselves during this period in 2017.
The majority of significant changes in October occur at Magic Kingdom as we saw some higher wait times than usual in 2016, continuing a trend that we saw since Fall 2014. Still, October will offer moderate crowd levels most days.
Some forecasts around Veterans Day and Thanksgiving have increased the crowd levels in November, especially at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. This reflects what we saw in 2016 during the same period. Although our forecasts are not based solely on the previous year, we do give more weight to recent observations so what we saw in 2016 counts more than what we saw in years past.
Similarly December will see some boosts in crowd numbers during the middle of the month in reaction to what we observed in 2016 but mostly minor changes throughout the rest. Of course, once December 25th arrives, the parks will be extremely crowded for two weeks.
Wait times in early January 2018 are forecast to be higher than originally predicted given the surge in wait times that we saw this year well after the Christmas rush would normally have ended. Crowd levels are still decent throughout most of the month however.