Winter is not low season at Walt Disney World, at the least not throughout the board with weeks of wait instances on par with August and September. Nevertheless, 2024 attendance has dropped from vacation highs that lasted by the primary week of January. This crowd report shares current knowledge, our on the bottom observations, plus surprises we’re seeing to this point and the way we anticipate to be fallacious.
Since round 2017-2018, winter has (largely) been a ‘story of two seasons’ at Walt Disney World. There are peaks and valleys, with actually excessive highs and comparatively low lows. Obviously, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are peak weeks–everybody is aware of that. However, it’s not merely sluggish after then till Spring Break, and hasn’t been for a number of years.
Our most up-to-date report identified how Colossal Crowds Continue in Early 2024 at Walt Disney World, and defined that this was primarily on account of Central Florida faculty districts being on break coupled with the tip of AP blockouts, and not the Walt Disney World Marathon (though that actually is a contributing issue). Now that we’re a few weeks faraway from that, we’ve seen the newest developments in crowds emerge…
Another factor price mentioning is that January and February usually are not even constant from year-to-year. Again, this pattern has been rising since 2017, however it turned actually pronounced in Winter 2020. Those are nonetheless among the worst crowds we’ve seen, most likely for a spread of causes together with the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the earlier month. (For a refresher, learn Peak Crowds in Winter “Off-Season” at Walt Disney World.) I’ve talked about it earlier than, however I stay satisfied that 2020 would’ve been a blockbuster 12 months for Walt Disney World crowds had the entire “closure” factor not occurred.
Then got here Winter 2021, which was the precise reverse–the phrases ‘dead’ and ‘ghost cities’ can be completely apt and solely slight hyperbole. Probably quite a lot of explanations for that, however the greatest would undoubtedly be the vacation COVID wave inflicting a variety of cancellations. After climbing in late 2020, crowds these two months had been the bottom they’d been because the month or so after reopening.
Winter 2022 was bonkers. We warned that this may probably be the case in Reopening of International Travel’s Impact on Walt Disney World Crowds. In addition to that, pent-up demand was nonetheless heating up, runDisney was again, as had been youth sporting occasions. Plus, loads of individuals nonetheless had but to expertise Walt Disney World’s fiftieth Anniversary, which was only some months outdated.
Last 12 months was pretty uneventful, largely marking a return to the (new) regular of winter crowds at Walt Disney World. Down year-over-year or as in comparison with 2020, however up significantly as in comparison with the lows of 2021. Pent-up demand had largely run its course and weeks that had been beforehand lulls as soon as once more reemerged; busier break weeks/lengthy weekends had been as crowded as anticipated. Knowing that it wasn’t opening till Spring Break, maybe some WDW diehards had been ready for TRON Lightcycle Run; I’m actually unsure.
All of which is a long-winded preface that brings us to Winter 2024 at Walt Disney World…
As all the time, what’s coated in these “crowd” reviews is definitely posted wait time knowledge that’s pulled from My Disney Experience and compiled into graphs for monitoring and evaluating varied days, weeks, months, and years. Lots could be gleaned from posted wait instances, however it’s not essentially conclusive of in-park congestion or crowds.
There are a number of different variables that may impression “looks like” crowds, from festivals at EPCOT to climate to visitor demographics to experience breakdowns to operational effectivity to time of day or day of the week. (Literally all the pieces on that record can be related in January 2024 to this point!) Yada yada yada…that’s only a partial record! Beyond that, wait instances are sometimes inflated, inaccurate, or in any other case manipulated by Walt Disney World.
In quick, wait instances are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s uncooked attendance or crowds–which have elevated by a number of million individuals over the course of the final decade-plus. With that out of the way in which, let’s dig into the information and take a look at Walt Disney World wait instances. As all the time, all graphs and stats are courtesy of thrill-data.com:
We’ll begin with a high-level take a look at the month-to-month numbers for Walt Disney World as an entire.
This is most fascinating if you happen to examine the latest December and this January to the identical months from the prior-year. Notice December 2022 was a lot busier however that January 2024, to this point, is far busier–virtually as dangerous as final month?! Before drawing any untimely conclusions, check out the subsequent graph…
If we break this down by week, the variations must be simpler to identify. The week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve was off the charts–barely busier than the identical week year-over-year. The following week that encompasses winter break was nonetheless actually dangerous, however not fairly as dangerous as final 12 months. The month averages mirror January not but being over–it’ll drop additional, however most likely not a ton–and December additionally together with a number of really sluggish weeks.
Equally as fascinating are the weeks since winter break ended. Crowd ranges in January 2024 dropped sharply as faculty went again into session, which occurred extra steadily final 12 months. The different distinction for this 12 months is that winter crowd ranges are already beginning to pattern upwards. (Don’t give an excessive amount of weight to that final line above–that “week” is only one day outdated.)
Above is a take a look at the every day numbers over the course of the final 6 months.
This provides a extra granular take a look at the post-break drop-off, adopted by the gradual improve in crowds since. The two larger strains mid-month are the MLK Day vacation weekend, which can be the beginning of EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts. Although it’s not a very busy vacation weekend, it’s a well-liked time for Walt Disney World followers from the Midwest and Northeast to take fast getaways to flee the chilly.
Also fascinating is that the final a number of days have seen crowds roughly on par with final 12 months’s fall break and far busier than the lulls throughout November or December. While it’s most likely too early to name this a pattern (although we expect it most likely is), it’s been busier than we’d anticipate this time of 12 months to be.
We’ll begin the park-by-park knowledge with Magic Kingdom, the place crowd ranges proceed to be considerably of a curler coaster in January 2024. Normally, they’d normalize this time of 12 months after a number of consecutive months of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party dates. That hasn’t actually occurred–they’ve been in every single place.
Our greatest guess is that this can be a matter of experience refurbishments & breakdowns, climate, and the modifications to park reservations and hopping guidelines. This was just about my expertise with Magic Kingdom during the last a number of days, with a lot of downtime (each deliberate and unplanned) plus climate inflicting much more unpredictability than regular. We’d nonetheless anticipate a normalization fairly quickly.
We additionally wish to (once more) draw your consideration to one thing mentioned in Walt Disney World Extends Hours in Winter 2024, which is the early closing on January 29, 2024. Once extra, we’d extremely suggest doing Magic Kingdom on that day and not on January 28.
This identical schedule quirk has occurred for the final a number of years, and if historical past repeats itself (and it’ll!), January 28 will see a reasonably vital spike whereas January 29 will probably be one of many 5 slowest days of the 12 months at Magic Kingdom. If in any respect attainable, we’d suggest avoiding January 30 at MK, too. If you need or want a second day within the park, purpose for January 26-27 or 31–these are additionally extra favorable from the attitude of park hours.
In any case, gentle crowds in Magic Kingdom on January 29, 2024 is likely one of the most secure “can’t miss” predictions we will presumably make. Attendance will be low that day, to the purpose that you just gained’t want Genie+ (particularly if you happen to make the most of the extra-early Early Entry!). Don’t overthink this, questioning whether or not “too many” individuals will comply with our recommendation and considering it may be busy because of this. It won’t be. This prediction is as certain because it will get in relation to WDW crowds.
Animal Kingdom is coming off its vacation highs, when wait instances had been completely off-the-charts. If crowd ranges weren’t capped at 10/10, these dates between Christmas and New Year’s Eve would’ve been like 15/10–they had been that a lot larger than the traditional 10/10 vary.
Wait instances had been manageable post-winter break, however there was a spike for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day vacation weekend; nonetheless not practically as dangerous as Christmas break, although. After a quieter couple of weeks, wait instances are trending up once more. The final a number of days have been within the 9/10 vary, which is fascinating and a bit stunning.
I used to be in Animal Kingdom for 2 of these 9/10 days, they usually had been dangerous. Not within the typical methods you would possibly anticipate, such because the Pandora rides registering triple digit waits. They did, however probably not all that surprising numbers. More in lengthy waits for different issues that always are simpler to perform, such because the stage reveals having precise strains and Lightning Lanes being invaluable at them. Same story with Dinosaur and Kilimanjaro Safaris, which had overflow queues spilling far out their attraction entrances together with triple-digit waits.
Then there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After colossal crowds all through the vacation season, it’s now averaging average crowd ranges (within the 4/10 to six/10 vary). Downright pleasant by comparability!
It’s uncertain that any first-timers to the park would agree with that evaluation. Hollywood Studios is disagreeable when wait instances are “solely” average–it’s downright depressing at 10/10. DHS merely can not take up crowds with its present lineup, and “looks like” crowds could be fairly dangerous as soon as the group degree is at 6/10 or above.
As somebody who has been across the block with terrible attendance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I used to be pretty unfazed by current experiences there. Even with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster closed and the compulsory breakdowns at different sights, the park as an entire was not horrible. With that stated, “not horrible” is relative to the DHS baseline, which is sort of all the time a various diploma of dangerous. Early Entry or nighttime stay the best methods to “beat” DHS, adopted by (or alongside) Lightning Lanes.
Continuing to EPCOT, the place crowd ranges are formally above-average to hit (6/10 to eight/10).
This is fairly excessive for winter at EPCOT, however even now, there’s a chasm between crowd ranges as represented by experience wait instances and crowd ranges as represented by congestion or, say, the typical size of a line for a Food Studio at Festival of the Arts. I’d say 6/10 to eight/10 is about correct for the previous Future World, which is noticeably busy however not bonkers.
World Showcase is arguably a lot worse. I waited near half-hour for a grilled cheese sandwich and equally as lengthy for some bone marrow. There had been a number of events once I couldn’t even discover an open blogger’s buffet bar (also referred to as a trash can desk prime) as a result of it was so busy. Wait instances for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure had been typically “solely” round 60-90 minutes (dangerous however not really terrible), even because the walkways had been actually congested.
Not precisely an enormous shock there, and owing to the ever-increasing reputation of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. As a reminder, nothing at EPCOT’s festivals has a posted wait time, so this congestion shouldn’t be “picked up” by crowd ranges. Meaning that locals exhibiting up, wandering round, grazing the meals cubicles, having fun with artwork and leisure, however NOT doing a single attraction contribute to congestion however not to crowd ranges.
Paradoxically, these persons are most likely worse for crowdedness, as they’re just about all the time in walkways and never in standby strains. Call it the “EPCOT Effect” or no matter, however it’s noticeable at this park greater than any of the others.
Ultimately, it’s been a average winter “low season” to this point at Walt Disney World. When trying on the weekly averages, there aren’t actually any main variations from final 12 months–so this might be construed as an uneventful crowd report and but additional proof that developments are returning to regular. However, I’m reluctant to attract that conclusion for a few causes.
First, as a result of final 12 months’s crowd ranges from mid-April by late December had been down fairly considerably as in contrast with the identical dates in 2022. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve was the most important exception, which was really up. That has continued into January 2024, which may very well be the beginning of a pattern, that means that Walt Disney World is reversing final 12 months’s slight slowdown.
This is itself noteworthy, as we’ve been anticipating an additional exhaustion of pent-up demand over the course of 2024. What if, as an alternative, this marks a rebound for Walt Disney World? That 2023 was the ‘off’ 12 months for households that go to semi-frequently, they usually’re returning in 2024. That fears of a recession are diminishing, client confidence is enhancing, and all of that is going to lead to a bounce-back 12 months for Walt Disney World. Or that the corporate is doing what’s essential to incentivize followers to return, pulling the right “levers,” and so forth.
We’re not but suggesting that any of this stuff are occurring–but. What we’re conceding is that we beforehand did not even account for these prospects, and as an alternative assumed that the pattern line for Walt Disney World crowds would proceed downward as revenge journey continued to exhaust itself. That should still be true in the long term of 2024, however we all know suspect that it may very well be fallacious.
Crowd ranges have began trending upward inside January at a time once they’d usually proceed dropping or, at minimal, plateau at below-average ranges. It’s fully attainable that this can be a non permanent blip, and that later this week or subsequent an additional slowdown will happen. For the explanations above (and extra), we’re now skeptical of that; our suspicion is that the subsequent couple months are going to resemble one thing extra like a repeat of Winter 2020.
If so, our present crowd forecasts are going to underestimate attendance and wait instances till Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day. We’ll have extra on the ‘why’ of this very quickly–I wish to see a bit extra earlier than making any daring assertions. (I additionally don’t wish to “bury” potential modifications to crowd developments on the finish of a crowd report the place they’re simple to overlook.)
For now, I needed to offer these of you visiting Walt Disney World the remainder of this month or in February 2024 that it may be worse than you’re anticipating. The climate and park hours extensions nonetheless make the winter, low season or not, a good time to go to–so don’t fret an excessive amount of. Of course, all bets are off as soon as Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend roll round. (See Avoid Ski Week Crowds at Disney for extra.) We aren’t predicting the second half of February 2024 to be the low season at Walt Disney World, however then once more, we by no means had been.
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What has your expertise been with crowds at Walt Disney World to this point in Winter 2024? Have you been stunned by the “low season” attendance this month? Have you encountered ‘dead’ days throughout this time? Do you agree or disagree with our tackle the crowds? If you visited WDW throughout January or February 2018-2020, what was your expertise with wait instances then? Any questions we may also help you reply? Hearing suggestions about your experiences is each fascinating to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!