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Winter (Nonetheless) Is Not Off-Season at Disney World


Winter is now not low season at Walt Disney World, not less than not throughout the board with weeks of wait instances on par with August and September. Nonetheless, 2024 attendance has dropped from vacation highs that lasted by means of the primary week of January. This crowd report shares latest knowledge, our on the bottom observations, plus surprises we’re seeing thus far and the way we anticipate to be incorrect.

Since round 2017-2018, winter has (principally) been a ‘story of two seasons’ at Walt Disney World. There are peaks and valleys, with actually excessive highs and comparatively low lows. Clearly, Christmas and New Yr’s Eve are peak weeks–everybody is aware of that. Nevertheless, it’s not merely gradual after then till Spring Break, and hasn’t been for a number of years.

Our most up-to-date report identified how Colossal Crowds Proceed in Early 2024 at Walt Disney World, and defined that this was primarily on account of Central Florida college districts being on break coupled with the tip of AP blockouts, and not the Walt Disney World Marathon (though that definitely is a contributing issue). Now that we’re a few weeks faraway from that, we’ve seen the newest tendencies in crowds emerge…

One other factor price stating is that January and February aren’t even constant from year-to-year. Once more, this pattern has been rising since 2017, however it turned actually pronounced in Winter 2020. These are nonetheless a number of the worst crowds we’ve seen, in all probability 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 ‘useless’ and ‘ghost cities’ could be completely apt and solely slight hyperbole. Most likely a lot of explanations for that, however the greatest would undoubtedly be the vacation COVID wave inflicting a number 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 could seemingly be the case in Reopening of Worldwide Journey’s Influence on Walt Disney World Crowds. Along with 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.

Final 12 months was pretty uneventful, principally 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 principally 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. Figuring out that it wasn’t opening till Spring Break, maybe some WDW diehards had been ready for TRON Lightcycle Run; I’m actually undecided.

All of which is a long-winded preface that brings us to Winter 2024 at Walt Disney World…

As at all times, what’s lined in these “crowd” experiences is definitely posted wait time knowledge that’s pulled from My Disney Expertise and compiled into graphs for monitoring and evaluating numerous days, weeks, months, and years. So much 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 affect “looks like” crowds, from festivals at EPCOT to climate to visitor demographics to trip breakdowns to operational effectivity to time of day or day of the week. (Actually every thing on that listing could be related in January 2024 to this point!) Yada yada yada…that’s only a partial listing! Past that, wait instances are sometimes inflated, inaccurate, or in any other case manipulated by Walt Disney World.

In brief, 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 best way, let’s dig into the info and have a look at Walt Disney World wait instances. As at all times, all graphs and stats are courtesy of thrill-data.com:

We’ll begin with a high-level have a look at the month-to-month numbers for Walt Disney World as an entire.

That is most attention-grabbing should you examine the latest December and this January to the identical months from the prior-year. Discover December 2022 was a lot busier however that January 2024, to this point, is far busier–virtually as dangerous as final month?! Earlier than 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 Yr’s Eve was off the charts–barely busier than the identical week year-over-year. The next 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 in all probability not a ton–and December additionally together with a number of really gradual weeks.

Equally as attention-grabbing are the weeks since winter break ended. Crowd ranges in January 2024 dropped sharply as college went again into session, which occurred extra step by step final 12 months. The opposite 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 just one day outdated.)

Above is a have a look at the each day numbers over the course of the final 6 months.

This gives a extra granular have a look at the post-break drop-off, adopted by the gradual improve in crowds since. The 2 larger traces mid-month are the MLK Day vacation weekend, which can be the beginning of EPCOT’s Pageant of the Arts. Though it’s not a really busy vacation weekend, it’s a in style time for Walt Disney World followers from the Midwest and Northeast to take fast getaways to flee the chilly.

Additionally attention-grabbing is that the final a number of days have seen crowds kind of on par with final 12 months’s fall break and far busier than the lulls throughout November or December. Whereas it’s in all probability too early to name this a pattern (although we predict it in all probability 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. Usually, they’d normalize this time of 12 months after a number of consecutive months of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Occasion and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Occasion dates. That hasn’t actually occurred–they’ve been in all places.

Our greatest guess is that it is a matter of trip refurbishments & breakdowns, climate, and the adjustments to park reservations and hopping guidelines. This was just about my expertise with Magic Kingdom over the past a number of days, with numerous downtime (each deliberate and unplanned) plus climate inflicting much more unpredictability than regular. We’d nonetheless anticipate a normalization fairly quickly.

We additionally need 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. As soon as extra, we’d extremely suggest doing Magic Kingdom on that day and not on January 28.

This similar 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 important spike whereas January 29 can be one of many 5 slowest days of the 12 months at Magic Kingdom. If in any respect potential, we’d suggest avoiding January 30 at MK, too. If you would like or want a second day within the park, intention for January 26-27 or 31–these are additionally extra favorable from the angle 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 simply received’t want Genie+ (particularly should you benefit from the extra-early Early Entry!). Don’t overthink this, questioning whether or not “too many” individuals will observe our recommendation and pondering it is perhaps busy consequently. It is not going to be. This prediction is as positive because it will get on the subject of 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 Yr’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 almost 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 attention-grabbing and a bit stunning.

I used to be in Animal Kingdom for 2 of these 9/10 days, and so they had been dangerous. Not within the typical methods you may anticipate, such because the Pandora rides registering triple digit waits. They did, however not likely all that surprising numbers. Extra in lengthy waits for different issues that usually are simpler to perform, such because the stage reveals having precise traces and Lightning Lanes being beneficial at them. Similar 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 reasonable 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” reasonable–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 latest experiences there. Even with Rock ‘n’ Curler Coaster closed and the compulsory breakdowns at different points of interest, the park as an entire was not horrible. With that stated, “not horrible” is relative to the DHS baseline, which is nearly at all times a various diploma of dangerous. Early Entry or nighttime stay the best methods to “beat” DHS, adopted by (or alongside) Lightning Lanes.

Persevering with to EPCOT, the place crowd ranges are formally above-average to hit (6/10 to eight/10).

That is fairly excessive for winter at EPCOT, however even now, there’s a chasm between crowd ranges as represented by trip wait instances and crowd ranges as represented by congestion or, say, the typical size of a line for a Meals Studio at Pageant of the Arts. I might 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 have been a number of events after I couldn’t even discover an open blogger’s buffet bar (also called a trash can desk prime) as a result of it was so busy. Wait instances for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Journey 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 Worldwide Pageant of the Arts. As a reminder, nothing at EPCOT’s festivals has a posted wait time, so this congestion just isn’t “picked up” by crowd ranges. Which means 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 in all probability worse for crowdedness, as they’re just about at all times in walkways and never in standby traces. Name it the “EPCOT Impact” or no matter, however it’s noticeable at this park greater than any of the others.

Finally, it’s been a reasonable winter “low season” thus far at Walt Disney World. When wanting 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 tendencies are returning to regular. Nevertheless, 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 means of late December had been down fairly considerably as in contrast with the identical dates in 2022. The week between Christmas and New Yr’s Eve was the most important exception, which was truly 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.

That is itself noteworthy, as we’ve been anticipating an extra exhaustion of pent-up demand over the course of 2024. What if, as a substitute, this marks a rebound for Walt Disney World? That 2023 was the ‘off’ 12 months for households that go to semi-frequently, and so they’re returning in 2024. That fears of a recession are diminishing, client confidence is enhancing, and all of that is going to end in 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 proper “levers,” and many others.

We’re not but suggesting that any of this stuff are occurring–but. What we’re conceding is that we beforehand didn’t even account for these prospects, and as a substitute assumed that the pattern line for Walt Disney World crowds would proceed downward as revenge journey continued to exhaust itself. That will nonetheless be true in the long term of 2024, however we all know suspect that it may very well be incorrect.

Crowd ranges have began trending upward inside January at a time after they’d usually proceed dropping or, at minimal, plateau at below-average ranges. It’s totally potential that it is a non permanent blip, and that later this week or subsequent an extra 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 that’s the case, 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 need to see a bit extra earlier than making any daring assertions. (I additionally don’t need to “bury” potential adjustments to crowd tendencies on the finish of a crowd report the place they’re straightforward to overlook.)

For now, I wished to provide these of you visiting Walt Disney World the remainder of this month or in February 2024 that it is perhaps 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. In fact, all bets are off as soon as Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend roll round. (See Keep away from 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.

Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Find out about inns on our Walt Disney World Resorts Evaluations web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Evaluations. To save cash on tickets or decide which kind to purchase, learn our Ideas for Saving Cash on Walt Disney World Tickets put up. Our What to Pack for Disney Journeys put up takes a singular have a look at intelligent gadgets to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Experience Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, the most effective place to begin is our Walt Disney World Journey Planning Information for every thing you might want to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What has your expertise been with crowds at Walt Disney World to this point in Winter 2024? Have you ever been stunned by the “low season” attendance this month? Have you ever encountered ‘useless’ days throughout this time? Do you agree or disagree with our tackle the crowds? In the event 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? Listening to suggestions about your experiences is each attention-grabbing to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!