Crowd BlogWalt Disney World (FL)

Crowd Calendar Update Postponed

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We schedule a monthly update to the Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar to happen around the first of each month. In August we decided to delay the September update so we could analyze the impact of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening on August 29, 2019, at Hollywood Studios. We figured that two weeks of data would give us an initial take on operations at the parks.

This map shows the latest forecast track of Hurricane Dorian, as of Friday, Aug. 30. (Source: Accuweather)

Hurricane Dorian decided to interrupt travel plans for people visiting Florida. The forecast prior to Labor Day had Walt Disney World in the direct path of the hurricane.  Many guests shortened, canceled or postponed their vacations. Labor Day weekend is typically the last week of summer crowds; not in 2019.

Even with Florida missing the worst of the hurricane, attendance at Florida attractions was affected. Hurricane season is not over.

The number of tropical storms and hurricane days for the Atlantic basin spikes in mid-September. NOAA

The hurricane season and schools getting back in session helps keep crowds low in Florida.

Crowd Calendar Update

The next Crowd Calendar update will be October 1. We don’t have any definitive new data that we can use to change our initial predictions for crowds after the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Impact

Opening day, August 29, 2019, was everything Disney wanted. Guests started queueing up at midnight and were allowed into Hollywood Studios at 4 a.m. The new land was filled to capacity by 6 a.m. The opening day mayhem did not last long. We will chalk this up to the hurricane forecast and low crowds for all attractions in Florida.

The current state of Galaxy’s Edge is not enough to draw a significant increase in attendance at Walt Disney World.  Currently, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is the only ride.  Besides taking in the surroundings and taking pictures, all other experiences include an upcharge.

December 5, 2019, will be the big test for Galaxy’s Edge. The state-of-the-art, epic attraction, Ride of the Resistance opens. The success of the land is dependent on this ride.

Extra, Extra Magic Hours

Back in May, Disney announced Extra, Extra Magic Hours for this fall. The Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom have morning Extra Magic Hours every day through November 2.

This will affect touring patterns in the parks. We will have to wait to see how big of an impact this will have on touring. The excessive amount of Extra Magic Hours will give everyone an opportunity to ride headliners with very short wait times. Even for guests who cannot attend the Extra, Extra Magic Hours, the first hour the parks are open to all guests will have low wait times.

The Extra, Extra Magic Hours helps spread out the crowds and gives the guests an opportunity to take an afternoon break. This will help keep down crowd levels. (We calculate crowd level based on the average weight times of specific attractions between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.)

With Extra, Extra Magic Hours, the need to arrive an hour early to ride Slinky Dog, Flight of Passage, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with minimum wait time is not needed. The parks are opening so early, there is not a huge crowd before the parks open.

Sample Wait Times

To quantify how low wait times have been since September 1, this table shows the average wait times during the middle of Extra, Extra Magic Hours, during the first hour of the park opened to all guests, and around noon. The first number is the average posted wait time, and the number in parentheses is the average of actual wait times.

Extra, Extra
Magic Hours
First Hour Noon
Magic Kingdom
      7 Dwarfs Mine Train 18 (14) 21 (12) 46 (34)
      Space Mountain 9 (5) 10 (3) 26 (10)
      Splash Mountain n/a 5 (2) 26 (n/a)
Hollywood Studios
      Millennium Falcon 70 (38) 81 (41) 66 (74)
      Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster 6 (0) 14 (5) 34 (n/a)
      Toy Story Mania! 5 (4) 13 (13) 33 (18)
Animal Kingdom
      Expedition Everest 6 (0) 5 (3) 20 (13)
      Flight of Passage 28 (27) 39 (22) 75 (n/a)

Again wait times are partially low due to Hurricane Dorian. We do expect morning wait times to stay low during Extra, Extra Magic Hours.

Future Operations

Disney has big plans for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. Disney does not want guests to delay their vacation for two years. They have a schedule of new offerings before 2021 to keep guests coming back.

  • September 29, 2019 – Disney Skyliner
  • October 1, 2019 – Epcot Forever Nighttime Spectacular
  • December 5, 2019 – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • December 16, 2019 – Riviera Resort
  • December 2019 – Space 220 Restaurant
  • January 2020 – 3 new movies at Epcot pavilions
  • Early 2020 – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad
  • Summer 2020 – Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • 2020 – HarmonioUS – Epcot nighttime spectacular

Disney has not announced an extension of Extra, Extra Magic Hours past November 2, 2019.  The longer it takes Disney to announce the extension, the less likely we will see winter Extra, Extra, Magic Hours. I expect less Extra Magic Hours, and more paid early or late events.

With new attractions, we will see a change in FastPass+.  Once Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad, hopefully, we will have a more balanced tiering of attractions.

Each time there is a change in park operations we have to consider the impact on crowd levels. We expect that Rise of the Resistance will increase crowds.

September 2019

September has the lowest crowds of the year, and 2019 is no different. The inflation factor we added to Hollywood Studios is likely too high. Weather and school schedules have a higher impact on crowds than Star Wars. Expect lower crowd levels than we are currently predicting.

October and November 2019

Crowd levels will moderate. Hurricane season is tapering off, and schools will have their fall breaks. We have no reason to believe that crowd predictions will go up with the next update.

Do you have questions for the stats gurus? Let us know in the comments.

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Steve Bloom

By helping continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

21 thoughts on “Crowd Calendar Update Postponed

  • Have you analyzed the Not So Scary Halloween Party at all? How have the crowds been for that? We are there Oct 2-11 and have 2 Thursday party nights and considering buying the unlimited package. Hoping crowds stay 4-6 for that week

    • We have not look too deep into the Halloween Party data. We do know that the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on August 30 was the lowest attended party in years. The weather has a bigger impact on hard ticket events. Most parties do not sell out so the smart consumer would wait for a few days prior to the party to know what the weather is going to be before purchasing tickets. August 30, was rainy, so even locals or guest who did not cancel their vacations, probably skipped the party if they had not purchased tickets.

  • We are going early December.

    I’m afraid that WDW will pull back operations to keep their costs down but by then it’ll actually be crowded and they won’t be properly prepared to handle the masses. What a fiasco 😛

    WDW cannot even be sure if the low attendance was mostly caused by guests avoiding GE opening crowds or people finally put their foot down over continuous price hikes. The hurricane isn’t to blame if we continue to CLs under 3 thru Sept.

    • Disney does know how many hotel reservations were canceled. Low crowds in September is normal. If crowd levels stay low into October, Disney has a problem.

      I do worry that Disney is going to overreach to low attendance during Extra, Extra Magic Hours. December is going to need the extra park hours.

      • Thanks for the info. October attendance will be interesting to follow.

        We decided on Dec since more will be ready, like both GE rides, Space220, SkyLiner, Epcot show, 2 new resorts, etc. Waiting a few months to see GE made sense to us, others may be doing the same.

  • Hi Steve! We are in the parks for the end of October. If crowds across the parks continue to be lower than anticipated, do you think it’s possible that EEMH will be modified or canceled? I always feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop where Disney is concerned, lol.

    • Disney will not cancel EEMH.

      Modifying EEMH could be modified. Disney could reduce the number of attractions that are open during EEMH. At Hollywood Studios, EEMH could just include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. At the Animal Kingdom, Africa is closed during EEMH. I would not be surprised if Dinoland is excluded for EEMH. At the Magic Kingdom, only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open during EMH. For EEMH I could see only Fantasyland being open. The parks could also have a rolling opening time of attractions during EEMH.

      The fine print on Disney’s website allows for the modification of EEMH:

      • Thank you Steve! Very helpful!

  • Just got back from Disney Sept. 31st August-7th Sept. It was a great week to be there, we used extra extra magic hours for HS very little wait for Galaxy’s Edge, and Slinky Dog walked onto everything else. The whole week was like that. If your staying on property the extra extra magic hours is a huge gift!

  • We originally had a September 2-7 vacation, that Dorian ruined so we rescheduled for February 3-8. I saw so many changes happen in the 6 months prior to Labor Day, and will wait anxiously for what is in store for February 3. I look forward to your updates.

  • Specific to the current HS CL predictions: are you saying the 6-7 predictions in early October are still correct, but that the MFSR wait times will be adjusted down? Or will other rides also see lower wait times?

    • Correct. Our initial predictions for Smuggler’s Run are a bit high. October crowd levels of 6-7 or higher are typical.

  • I think there is a typo on noon data, I find it hard to believe that the actual wait time for Flights of Passage at Noon is Zero minutes.

    • it is fixed now.

      We did not have any one time their wait at noon. Touring Plan users know better than riding Flight of Passage in the middle of the day.

  • Steve,

    Can you at least update the next few week’s ride predictions for DHS for us paying members? It’s very hard to put together a touring plan when the software is guessing that everything will have higher wait times than is remotely possible given what we’ve seen so far, and it’s made the service far less valuable than on any of my past trips.

    Optimizing day of isn’t going to be a helpful answer when we need to have
    1) a good sense of pacing to dictate naps (especially important in DHS where fixed time shows are so much of the attraction portfolio), and
    2) a plan to split parks into physical chunks to tackle that makes sense within those nap and show windows, to minimize walking with small children.

    • Will do. Besides Smuggler’s Run, everything else should be fine.

      I will get Smuggler’s Run updated today, and review other Hollywood Studios attractions.

      • You rock!

  • Steve,
    We are headed to Disney Mar 15-22. When do you expect a more accurate update predicting that week? I was very surprised to see it’s mostly 9/10. What is the big factors contributing to it? Public schools aren’t yet on spring break during that period and I can’t imagine college spring breakers being a significant crowd at Disney.

    Also, the evening magic hours at Magic Kingdom was removed during the most recent update. Is that something they run at least once a week so it will be added at another day of that week?


    • Your week at Disney is a popular week for spring break in 2020. Ruffly 20% of the schools in the US will be on break. Predictions will be more accurate as Disney finalizes park hours, but don’t expect big changes.

      The Extra Magic Hours should be accurate 2-3 months before your vacation. I would assume there will be at least one day with evening EMH. Tuesdays are currently evening EMH, but that could change.

    • Public schools are definitely on spring break during that period. The second and third week of March are huge spring break weeks. I’ve been for the past two years at that time, and it is extremely crowded. Crowd levels of 9/10 aren’t predictions – they’re reality. I know for sure pretty much all of Texas is on break at that time. Also, most of Mississippi, which is where I’m from. I’ve also heard it’s spring break time in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.

      • We visited March 5-10 this year and it felt a bit busier than our trip the previous April near Easter.

        I think between March, April, May the first half of May is least crowded (and still has great weather).

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