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Magic Kingdom Reaches Capacity And Closes To Guests

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The Magic Kingdom closed to guests today. Waits at Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain reached 120 minutes. FASTPASSes for Space were nearing running out around 1:20 pm.

Update: The park is open to resort guests and annual passholders as of 3:30 pm.  Thanks to Jeff T. for the details.

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Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

58 thoughts on “Magic Kingdom Reaches Capacity And Closes To Guests

  • I have found that this article and supporting comments are rather interesting. In my experience, this is a solid website to locate articles on matters like travel tips. Will anyone here show me where to locate more particular information on this subject, please? Thanks!

  • I can only imagine that most of the off site hotels are basically begging for guests. Someone from one of the podcasts commented that the 4for7 deal was the only reason Disney got so many people to come. I do not think free dining is going to draw as much of a crowd that this deal did. Len is right about the length having something to do with it. If they had kept it to maybe a month or so then maybe the response would be better. Again it is too early to say and come June, the availability will tell the tale.

  • We were planning to go in May… but we just saw the closure of Tomorrowland Transit Authority on April 19th and that is my son’s favorite thing in the whole park! So, we decided to go on April 18th. We can only go for a day trip this time (from about 2.5 hours away) and so at this point that day is our only option to go while they have the TTA open.

    We hate it when it is crowded though! Not so much the lines, but with a stroller it is literally hard to move!
    Given the recent crowds, do you think it will be horrible this Saturday, should we just skip it?

  • We are going down May 2-9 with toddlers who love Disney but are not great with long lines. I’m wondering if we should add the water park option to our ticket rather than the park hopper. We booked Riverside with a basic myw package of buy 4 get 3 free and thought we might add the park hopper later. Len, are the water parks any less busy? We know the kids won’t get a lot out of the slides and stuff but they would love the play areas. They were crazy for the Goofy water jets at Pop when we went last September. Would we be wasting our money? Thanks for the great work on the site… love this new posting tool.

  • My unscientific opinion is that the year-over-year comparison will generally be up in terms of bodies in the park, but down revenue because of the measures WDW resorted to to get people in the door. And that elevated crowd count through the remainder of ’09 is going to affect your trip adversely.

    • If I was a betting man, I might take your side Bill. Good insight.

  • The funny thing about the crowds levels after Easter in my opinion, they go down. Most of the schools start their final exams Mid-May and after easter is usually the crucial time for most kids. I think by next Thursday (and len correct me if I am wrong) the levels will get a heck of a lot better.

    I took the Keys to the Kingdom tour last december and the guide/cast member said that Disney usually uses the alternate route thru the backstage area of the MK to funnel guests to and from the park entrance to the hub. He said that they put up partition walls up to block a lot of the view of the backstage area. The CM/Guide said that the crowds use to only get this bad during July 4th weekend, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve/Day.

    I guess this all boils down to the 4for7 deal that Disney gambled and won on.

    • Very true. It’ll be interesting to see how the off-site hotels did during Easter. My sense is that Disney siphoned off a lot of bookings. That should lead to less expensive offsite lodging during summer.

      We currently have 102 million hotel quotes in our database – I’ll see if Fred can crunch some of that.

  • How are the crowd levels at Epcot? We are making a one day stop there next Thursday after a cruise and are so sad to see the crowd levels jump from a 5 when we booked to a 9! We always go in off season so this holiday time is new to us…and may never happen again! (I also think that this year the long, brutal winter up north is driving people south.)

    • Crowds at Epcot are not much better than at MK or DHS, though Epcot’s greater size masks their impact. We’ve spent time in the park on three different days this week and found that FASTPASSes for Soarin, Mission Space, and Test Track have run out by early afternoon. Passes for the Kim Possible game don’t last much longer. At dinner time, it’s an absolute zoo around the top World Showcase restaurants.

      • Wow, a total zoo! Even in Epcot, that usually just sucks the crowds up! Thanks for sharing the news on the trip!

  • Holy Crud! I’m starting to get scared about our Memorial Day trip. We are going from May 23 through the 30th. Planning to get there way early and leave the parks each day by 2:00 at the latest. Where is a crystal ball when I need one? However, I was reminiscing with my husband and told him my last trip to wdw was 30 years ago. All that was there was the Magic Kingdom. I know we were there over the 4th of July — and there was only one park to hold all the people. I don’t remember having any less fun because of crowds. (I was a kid, what did I know…..?) Now — everyone — this is your cue to post all sorts of reassuring messages about what a wonderful time we are going to have! I’ve practically memorized “THE BOOK” – so I consider myself armed and educated!!!!! 🙂
    (Hey Len – are you glad I’ve found myself another outlet for my nervous energy and anticipation?????? 🙂

    • Hey Chris, remember that having a good touring plan is about 5 times more important that the day of week or time of year, when it comes to how long you’re going to stand in line. Let us know if there’s anything we can help with.

      • Len, I am nervous as well. I am attending a conference at the Swan May 11th-15th. I won’t be out of sessions until the afternoons. will it be worth my while to even get a ticket to the parks? FYI, Sunday the 10th is EMH at MK from 9-midnight. will the resort crowds make th park manageable during those hours? Thanks for any tips you can give…

      • Hey Maureen, I think crowds in mid-May should be manageable, since public schools will be back in session. We have afternoon touring plans that might be useful. I would start making advance dining reservations now, if you’ve not done so.

  • Ilive 6 miles from disney and am there too often. Since 9/11 crowds were so low that they cut hours at all park, I was there in april and may that year and went back the month of Dec. 2001-WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! It didn’t start to recover until 2004. Now do to the dollar being so weak (it’s like two for one overseas) and Disney offering so many deals it is so crowded. My advice is GO EARLY LEAVE EARLY!!! We can do all of the rides by noon with many ppl at breakfast!!

    • I think the dollar definitely has something to do with it, and your advice is spot on. BTW, if you’re in the parks and notice anything about crowds, we’d love to hear about it. Our Twitter account is @TouringPlans, if you’re into that sort of thing. Thanks again!

      • I live in UK, exchange rate used to be good for us to change pounds to dollars – used to be 2 for 1. Not anymore, exchange rate is rubbish and is getting closer to 1 for 1.

    • Latoya,

      Great advice. Even though we’re doing the Free Dining I already told my family on most days we will be eating breakfast in the room before we leave. That way we have full belly’s and can get to the parks early. Then at 1:00 we will break for a meal.

      My five daughters are used to this though since I’ve been following the Guide since I discovered it eight years ago (maybe longer?). Heck, my two youngest daughters have never been to the parks without seeing the guide in my backpack.

      • We have to teach the kids when they’re young!!!!!!!lol
        Have a great trip!

  • howdy! is the unofficial guide survey form still the best way to send you guys feedback?

    • Yes, Susan, the survey’s the best mechanism. Bob reads those daily.

  • I think the colder weather played a part….nobody stayed at their resort to swim because it was too crowded. Every park was packed! DHS ran out of FastPasses for the day before 12noon on April 7. We heard that walking into DHS and decided not to go in and try MK instead. We got to MK before 1pm, and got a 6pm FP for Buzz. We had a good afternoon – yes very crowded but we made the most of it.

    • Heard today was a repeat of the last two days.

      • I was also told they were letting guests in MK leave through an alternate exit to help alleviate the congestion on Main Street. Anyone ever heard of them doing that before?

      • Yeah, I think it’s the same exit they use to let the marathoners in. Also, they sometimes during the parade, open up that section to let people get to/fro Tomorrowland. Got to see it during Christmas–it was very cool.

      • We were sent through that path coming into the park Saturday night of Columbus Day weekend. Brought us right up to Tomorrow Land near the Noodle Station. It was “cool” for the adults to see but diminished the magic slightly for my kids seeing the dumpsters, etc.

  • Well I’m hoping the crowds are revving up now and then will dwindle for the Holidays as me and my daughter go for Thanksgiving week – and yes I know, keep dreaming! LOL Either way, we are going and plan on having a blast!!!

    • Hey Lisa,

      You may be right. Disney’s concern is that the current set of deals is pulling demand from later in the year to now, so people who would have gone during Thanksgiving have switched to spring to take advantage of buy-4-get-7. The fall free dining deal will be an indication of whether they’re justified in being scared.

      • Well our school calendar came out and instead of going for two weeks in early August we are going from 8/22 to 9/5 to take advantage of the free food. Booked two rooms for two weeks in the French Quarter (after reading latest review in 2009 Unofficial guide). We are also going down for three days four nights in late April to visit my daughter who works at the Tower as a CPCM. Her semester is up in May so we could not get an employee discount for our August trip.

        Len, when you say the Fall Free Dining will be an indication if Disney’s fear is justified do you mean if attendance is lighter than normal it is justified, or if it is stronger than normal it is justified?

      • Great that you’re taking advantage of Free dining. No food tastes better than free food!

        By the way, is ‘the Tower’ Bay Lake Tower, Tower of Terror, or Scopa Towers?

      • Tower of Terror.

      • Disney’s concern is that everyone rushed for the spring buy-4-get-7, meaning they just moved their fall trips to earlier in the year. If free dining is less popular this year than ’08 (i.e., if you see more availability, especially at the value and moderate resorts), that might be an indication that they’re right. The thing that will make year-over-year comparisons difficult is the longer free dining season this year – I think it’s 20-something days longer than in ’08 – and that will tend to reduce crowds on any given day.

      • Hey Len! And here I just thought I was in the wishful thinking mode! I actually never even thought of it from your point of view – the fact it may take away from revenue later in the year (i.e. the Holidays) because people are moving their vacations to spring or summer. I look at it this way, I go over Thanksgiving for the whole week because my daughter is out of school and such and it doesn’t take away from her schoolwork. It’s busy (last year we sat around 8-9’s crowd wise Thanksgiving week) it’s fun, it’s beautiful and it’s a special magical time no matter how you look at it! When they say it’s the happiest place in the world – they were 100% right!

  • Well, I can speak for everyone else…but I was there two weeks ago and as others have said, the parks were packed. Our group spent in excess of $8000 (including hotel, tickets,souveniers, food, etc)….I am sure people are spending lots of money!

  • So it makes perfect sense…obviously Disney needed to lay off 1900 people and cut Fantasmic back to save money.


    • Hey Rick!

      I agree on Fantasmic!, and it’s really messing with the crowd levels at the Studios. As for the layoffs, the open question is whether crowds are spending on dining and merchandise as they did in the past.

      • Rumor mill suggests that guest spending is quite a bit lower, in both parks and resorts. Anecdotally, I saw a lot of merchandise discounts this year that I normally never see during my annual February trip—including toys, plush (!), and pirates merch.

        Also, the discounts aren’t filling rooms that used to go un-filled. Occupancy was 90% in fiscal 2008. Rather, the discounts are filling rooms that have always been full before, but at a lower price, further reducing per-capita spending numbers.

    • Bottom line on the layoffs, at least for now, is no union employees were let go. That means the CM’s on the ground doing most of the work have not been reduced. Agree on Fantasmic though. At some point Disney is going to have to bite the bullet on that. Right now the Park Calendar on their web site does not even tell you what days Fantasmic is going to be performed making it difficult to even plan ahead.

  • I just got home from WDW on Sunday. I’ve been 9 times and I have never seen crowds any worse than the crowds in Magic Kingdom on Saturday and Sunday. At one point I realized that I couldn’t see pavement in any direction. There was even a 90 + min wait at Pooh’s Honeypots. With the heat and humidity, I was pretty happy that I was leaving rather than arriving for vacation.

  • This might be good news for Mouse Corporate, but it’s terrible news for tourists. The crowd calendars, I suspect, are all going to be seriously inaccurate through the remainder of the year.

    My December ’08 visit was nearly ruined by a preponderance of “4”s that turned out to be “9”s.

    • Hey Bill,

      Sorry to hear about your crowds. Let me know the dates on which you visited in December, and the attractions that were “9’s.” I’d be interested in seeing what we measured as well. And we post actual vs. predicted crowd levels on this blog, so folks can keep track of how well the predictions go.

      • Len,

        We were in the parks from Dec. 5-Dec. 13 of 2008… crowds were nearly double what they had been a year earlier, to the naked eye at least.

      • Must’ve been not only the discounts, but lo and behold, the infamous international tour groups, from Brazil or whereabouts (with their flag-bearers and monotonous Day-Glo T-Shirts)! The last time I’ve seen them was in DHS (on ESPN: the Weekend), and two of them from Argentina and Brazil respectively wore matching lavender and gray tees – a change from the “bright tees” stereotype!

      • I feel very unconfortable by reading those comments regarding to Brazil and othe south american countries. I´m brazilian and I usually travell for diferent countries to work. I´m planning a trip to WDW with my family and signed to this site, and I´m considering to withdraw it. It seems that reading those post, the sterotype of brazilian would not be different than a american using a flower surf-type T-shirt.
        Several tourist groups – from several nacionalities – can and show a twisted an stereotipied version. Judging and criticizing a country is prejudice, and using what is shown in TV is stupidity. Likewise it would be the same as I use TV shows to make an opnion regarding american culture, high school behaviour…
        WDW is a touristic place that invite people from every country . In a multicultural enviroment, we learn to respect the difference, rather than complain and point a finger to some country as responsible for a problem.
        Finaly if we are talking about brazilian groups, ifsomeone has the trouble of looking for school calendar would know that the long period of holidays are from dec to february (summer vacation), carnival, then a holiday in april (easter – and I´d not expect many to travel abroad in a 2-day holiday), july (1 month) and a few other holidays around the year.

      • Hi Tania,

        Thanks for reading our new blog. I think talfonso meant “monochrome” instead of “monotonous” – “monochrome” means something is all one color. One of the things we learn from visiting Walt Disney World is that people, cultures and countries all celebrate their WDW trips in different ways, none of which is “right” or “wrong.”

        Personally, I love to see the enthusiasm that the kids in these tour groups bring to WDW, regardless of where they’re from.

        While I have your attention, Tania, I have a question that you might be able to help with. I know that schools in Brazil have their three-week winter breaks in July. Do you know on which dates those happen? That would be very good information for us for the crowd calendar.

        Thanks again for reading the blog! Let me know if there’s anything we can help with for your next trip to WDW!

      • Hi,

        Thanks for your coments, it is interesting that other web sites implicates this period of time as highly probable to be crowded, related to both spring break and several promotions from WDW. See coments at trip advisor web site.

        Anyway, here the answer you asked me: brazilian winter holidays goes from july 1st to 31. School have 1 month holidays (to any mother desperations), but many book their travelling during the last fifteen days. That´s maybe b/c many teens migtht get one or two extras exams and stayed a few more days at school. So I´d expect if a family is planing a trip to WDW that they concentrate their efforts in the last 15-days of July.

        Another expected “peak” for brazilian students is the week near october 12th – many schools (and even college as well) has an unofficial week off during this period of october – they call “semana do saco cheio” that is impossible to translate. It is related to Children day, and many parents might want to celebrate in special places, furthermore with this free-dining program, that actually save some money.

        But, for most family I believe that the most frequent time of the year for planning a family trip is January, once kids are off-school since early december, and probably driving everybody nuts. School term is expect to return in february (and the exact date depend upon Carnaval – it could be in th first or second week.

      • I can understand why you’re put off by some of the xenophobic posts. Most of us from the States are kind, compassionate people. Even more of us will feel the benefit of your hard earned currency coming to Florida. Hope you’ll decide to come anyway!

      • Hi Karen,

        that is true, that´s why I decided to reply that post. Most people are kind, and in a touristic area such as Florida-Orlando, it is hard to imagine that a particular group might be responsable by a “overbooking” …specially during spring break!
        I´ll visit WDW in november, I´ll face the Thanksgiving crowd…
        But I believe that the problem is not the crowd, the wheather, or any of these things. The real problem is how someone face it. There is a huge crowd, ok that is true but one can enjoy WDW with or without the crowd. Depending upon how you look at it (someone might even find it amusing).
        Therefore, in november, I expect to face a lot of people, but instead of compaint or try to find someone to be responsable for it, I´ll try to enjoy with my family, being there, enjoyingthe rides, enjoying the restaurants and most important my daughter smile.
        A philosopher form II century (Epicteto) said that the “problem are not the things but how people look at them”. It was true then, and now.

  • I think that Disney would look at it and see if they can do all they want within the time period they have set for the refurb before they will delay the start. I just hope that the 9 days I am there that the crowds get better. It is going to be close to final exams for most kids except elementary school kids and I just don’t think that many of the parents will come during that time. I wouldn’t if I had kids. I just wish they would have waited till later to do the TTA I enjoy relaxing on that ride. Maybe I will use MILF (the attraction, get the thoughts out of the gutter) to rest.

  • I wonder if there’s a chance the Space Mountain refurb will be delayed a day or two? Crowds are apparently supposed to be rather big still April 19-20.

  • I agree with Meximouse with the discounts. This kind of closures used to only happen during July 4th and Christmas holidays.

    One good thing, or bad for some people, is that Disney will probably not do this kind of discounts in the near future. I am going in 2 weeks for a research trip and did not even take advantage of the 4 for seven deal because it wouldn’t work for a 9 day trip easily.

    • I’ve seen these kind of closures Daytona 500 weekend in February.

  • I think that with all the discounts Disney is offering it will be like this all year long. Another very important fact is that a lot of pepople from latin america is visiting the parks taking advantage of those discounts.

    I went to Disney last february and the crowds were really unusual, lots of people from Brazil, Chile and Argentina. According to the guide we were supposed to have level 5 crowds, I think we were really around level 9 crowds.

    • I felt your pain many times – those tour groups, usually Brazilian, bother a lot of visitors, causing and otherwise forecasted Level 3 crowd into a full-blown Level 9! Good thing that I have a Seasonal Pass =D

  • I think that makes two days in a row.


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