It was the best (least-crowded) of times, it was the worst (most-crowded) of times. Except even the most-crowded times weren’t even that crowded. In the continuing story of 2023, crowds just aren’t keeping up with expectations. Which is good news for … everyone other than Disney I guess. Some of the wait times we’ve seen in the past two weeks looked more like the week after Labor Day than the week after Christmas. Combine that with party season predictable days, and you can have an remarkably spectacular park days this holiday season.
Observed Crowd Levels November 21 – December 4
Let’s call this the worst of times, but also recognize that the worst of times could have been a lot … worse-er. The Monday of Thanksgiving week (which was the 20th) is always the most crowded, and then things slack off a little throughout the week, followed by a gradual decrease over the weekend. Instead, things idled through Thansksgiving week at mildly above-average crowds, and then virtually vanished overnight.
They stayed vanished from Sunday the 26th all the way through Friday the 1st, and even still have barely recovered back to average. This is one of the least-crowded weeks we’ve seen all year. The week after Thanksgiving is always a nice little lull, but this was a totally different kind of lull. Maybe we have a cold snap in the weather to thank, or some happy party schedule accidents that shifted crowds around. But overall, things just shouldn’t have been this uncrowded.
When we break things down to the park level, we see a few more interesting trends. First, Magic Kingdom party days are still a lovely choice, even when overall crowd levels are high. Second, Animal Kingdom is regularly the least-crowded park, no matter what. And third, EPCOT seems to have a higher “baseline” than Hollywood Studios, which is bizarre. That could be an artifact of some downtime at large attractions, or it could show that EPCOT is good at not emptying out, even when other parks do.
A lot of the same trends happen even when the parks are less crowded. I was in Magic Kingdom on the 28th, and while it was a cold day, it was also a glorious one. Almost all attractions were walk-ons. The “digitization” room at TRON had a whole 5 people in it, total. And then every other park was glorious on the 29th. We’ve only got less than a month to take advantage of this crowd pattern! Go enjoy those empty park days and Christmas decorations, folks.
Performance of Crowd Level Predictions
Each week, I’m giving you a very transparent look into how our crowd level predictions performed. Each day at each park is one data point, so this week we have 28 different crowd level predictions to evaluate each week. Any time a prediction is within one or two crowd levels, things won’t really “feel” much different than what we predicted. Being off by 3 or more crowd levels is where we’d like to be more accurate because you might feel that difference in wait times throughout the day.
During the week of Thanksgiving, Touring Plans predictions were either spot-on or within 1 crowd level 39% of the time. That is well below average. 64% of the time Touring Plans predictions were within 2 crowd levels, and that means we earn a D for our predictions that week. Ouch ouch ouch. You can also quickly tell that the estimates were once again very skewed that week. The drop in crowds after Jersey Week stuck around through what should have been one of the most crowded weeks of the year. More than half of the time, crowds were overestimated by at least 2 crowd levels.
For example, the biggest overprediction of that week was a predicted 8 for Hollywood Studios on Sunday the 26th, which ended up being a 2. That’s the second time a miss at Hollywood Studios has been that big.
In the past week, Touring Plans predictions were either spot-on or within 1 crowd level 36% of the time. That’s even lower than the week of Thanksgiving. 64.5% of the time Touring Plans predictions were within 2 crowd levels, and that means we’re still at a D for our predictions the past week. And predictions were still remarkably skewed to overestimates.
In fact, the two biggest misses of the week were each overestimated by a five crowd levels, and were both at Hollywood Studios – on November 29th the park was predicted to be a crowd level 6 and was instead an exceedingly rare crowd level 1. And on December 4th, it was predicted at a crowd level 9 and ended up being a much nicer 4 instead.
Attraction Downtime November 21 – December 4
If we average all of the capacity lost due to unexpected downtime over the past two weeks, it comes out to 4.0% of attractions unexpectedly being down. We’re back “down” to something close to average. Almost all of the parks were closely huddled around that same number, with Hollywood Studios barely edging ahead for the “win” with 4.3% overall downtime.
The worst day for attraction downtime in the past two weeks was on November 25th. On that day, 7% of all capacity at WDW was lost due to unexpected downtime. The worst park-day was at EPCOT on December 1st. On that park day, 12% of the capacity was lost at the park due to unexpected downtime. EPCOT was open for 12.5 hours on the 1st, so 12% downtime is the equivalent of the whole park being down for 90 minutes. And with many of the big attractions being so far apart in EPCOT, that can lead to a whole lot of extra walking during an already busy day.
Attraction Downtime Worst Offenders
The worst offender of the past two weeks was Expedition Everest, which was unexpectedly down for 12% of the past week. The worst day for Expedition Everest was November 28th, when the ride was down for 79% of the day. In fact, the ride went down at around 10:45 am that day and didn’t come back online until 9:45 the next morning. There were a few other days where downtime was around 20%, but that single day was the biggest issue of the past two weeks.
Rope Drop Downtime
Here are the problematic offenders from the past two weeks:
- Magic Kingdom: TTA PeopleMover (unavailable for 19.5% of its first hour of the day), AstroOrbiter (unavailable for 16% of its first hour of the day)
- EPCOT: Spaceship Earth (unavailable for 22% of it first hour of the day), The Seas with Nemo and Friends (unavailable for 16% of its first hour of the day)
- Hollywood Studios: Rise of the Resistance (unavailable for 24% of its first hour of the day), Rock’n’Roller Coaster (unavailable for 18% of its first hour of the day), Runaway Railway (unavailable for 17% of its first hour of the day)
- Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest (unavailable for 13% of its first hour of the day)
Rise of the Resistance haven’t found its way onto this list for quite a while, but it came roaring back for the past two weeks, just in time for the Thanksgiving crowds. Thankfully, other parks had no really big issues at rope drop. Phew.
Wait Times November 21 – December 4
Attractions with the Highest Average Posted Wait at each park
- Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, average posted wait of 84 minutes (78 minutes two weeks ago)
- Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage, average posted wait time of 78 minutes (70 minutes two weeks ago)
- EPCOT: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, average posted wait time of 65 minutes (67 minutes two weeks ago)
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, average posted wait time of 65 minutes (65 minutes two weeks ago)
I’m blending the two weeks together here to show that things never got much more crowded than the rest of November. But as an example of how the two weeks differed – during the week of Thanksgiving, the average at Flight of Passage was 95 minutes. And the next week that average dropped to 60 minutes. Nothing like a 36% drop between weeks.
Parks with the Highest and Lowest Average Wait
These parks likely won’t change week-to-week unless something ridiculous happens, but these data points will give us a high-level view of how wait times are trending from week to week.
First, for the week of Thanksgiving:
- Highest: Hollywood Studios, average park-wide posted wait of 43 minutes (38 minutes two weeks ago)
- Lowest: Magic Kingdom, average park-wide posted wait of 27 minutes (25.5 minutes two weeks ago)
And then the week after that:
- Highest: Hollywood Studios, average park-wide posted wait of 36 minutes (43 minutes last week)
- Lowest: Magic Kingdom, average park-wide posted wait of 23.5 minutes (27 minutes last week)
Note that those Thanksgiving week numbers actually aren’t different from Jersey week! And then the week after is some of the lowest park-wide wait time averages that we’ve seen since Labor Day. That was a beautiful, beautiful week.
Most Inflated Posted Wait Times
We all know that Disney inflates their posted wait times on purpose. They have many reasons for doing this. Some are totally understandable, and some are potentially more problematic. We can figure out how much posted wait times are being inflated by comparing submitted actual wait times from the Lines App and the posted wait time when the person timing their wait entered the line.
Over the past week, actual wait times in the Lines App averaged 63% of what was posted. This is very in line with our historical average. If the posted wait time was 60 minutes, you could’ve expected to wait under 38 minutes instead.
But the worst offender for the past week is Gran Fiesta Tour. At this one attraction, submitted actual wait times were 39% of posted wait times in the past week. Wowzers! That means that if Gran Fiesta Tour had a 20 minute posted wait, you probably would’ve waited under 8 minutes instead. Significantly less than half of what was posted. Remember to always check the Lines app for predicted actual waits instead of believing what is posted.
Actual Wait Time Rock Star
The Actual Wait Time Rock Star for the week of Thanksgiving was … TheFugitiveGuy, who submitted a stunning 81 actual wait times through the Lines App over those 7 days! This includes 45 Lightning Lane waits, 31 Standby waits, 1 Single Rider wait, and 4 virtual queue waits. Thank you for all of that timing, TheFugitiveGuy! This vaults you solidly into first place. Way to take advantage of a less-crowded-than-normal Thanksgiving!
The Actual Wait Time Rock Star for the past week was … robertjcolby, who submitted an impressive 73 actual wait times through the Lines App over the last 7 days! This includes 31 Lightning Lane waits and 42 Standby waits. Thank you for all of that timing, robertjcolby! You’re up in the top tier of weekly winners.
Looking Ahead: December 5 – 11
We’re in the final stretch of the school year where even the most Disney-committed parents (cough*me*cough) are probably leaving their kids in school to finish the semester and all of that important stuff I guess. That means you’ve got parks populated by either families with really-littles or adults-only parties. And there just aren’t enough of them to fill up a lot of queues. Expect low-to-middling crowd levels.
The one exception to that will be EPCOT in the evenings, especially around the World Showcase. Even if it doesn’t pop up in wait times, the debut of Luminous is going to make the World Showcase a crush of humanity most nights between now and the end of the year (at least). But the removal of many, many of the walls in what-I-will-always-call-Future-World should make that part of the park much more bearable.