Magic Kingdom Crowds
The Magic Kingdom Crowds can be annoying, real annoying. The Magic Kingdom is the worlds busiest theme park. On a slow day lines can reach 45 minutes for the mountains (Space, Splash and Big Thunder) and over an hour for Peter Pan's Flight.
There are a bunch of strategies you can use when you're trying to avoid the crowds in the Magic Kingdom. A bunch and some even work. Let's get started ...
Crowds on Main Street USA
Photo by Jeff Christiansen
Nine By Noon
But first, a dose of realism ...
A few years ago, the New York Times, ran a story that said Disney estimates that the average guest completes 9 in a day. NINE! That's just not right. That's why we're here. There are almost 40 attractions in the Magic Kingdom and the average guest sees less than one fourth. That's a crime.
Dad thinks this is so outrageous that he implemented the Nine by Noon Challenge. Yep Nine by Noon. You can do it and we'll show you how.
There are lots of ways to avoid crowds at the Magic Kingdom. Some of them work, some of them don't. Let's look at what Dad thinks works best.
The best time to visit Disney World - Photo by Tom Bricker
Chose the best time to visit the Magic Kingdom
The number one way to avoid Magic Kingdom crowds, or just any crowd at Walt Disney World is to chose the best time to visit Disney World. So when is the best time to visit?
If you avoid the major holidays, you'll miss most of the crowds, but there really are some weeks when you will have the parks virtually to yourselves. (Check out the 5 best weeks to visit.) If you can't go one of those weeks you'll find all you need to know about when to visit ...
Choose the best day of the week
What is the best day of the week to visit the Magic Kingdom? Now there's a good question. As Tom Hanks says in "You've Got Mail" quoting the "Godfather" ...
Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday ...
There is no real answer to the best day to avoid Magic Kingdom crowds, but one rule of thumb is to go the day after an Extra Magic Hours day(see below). We've found Sunday mornings can be quiet, but the afternoons can get busy.
What it boils down to for me, the best day to visit the Magic Kingdom is ... anytime I can.
Early morning in the Magic Kingdom - Photo by Express Monorail
Get to the Magic Kingdom early
Wake up sleepyheads. Ya' think you're on vacation or sumpthin'? Nope, a Disney World vacation is not the best place to sleep in late, especially when it comes to avoiding Magic Kingdom crowds. You need to get up and get going. Mrs. Mom and I found that out on our trip last year. We planned to be at the Magic Kingdom when the park opened, but got delayed. We got there around 10:00 and by noon, the park was just about crazy.
The first two to three hours of every day are the time of the lowest crowds of the day. The wait time for Space Mountain at 10:00 am is usually around 20-30 minutes. At noon, it's 60-90 minutes. That's true of almost every ride in the park.
Crowd patterns are the same almost every day. The park is empty when it opens. Crowds grow until mid to late afternoon when they stabilize until after the evening parade. After that, crowds shrink the rest of the evening.
I can't stress this enough. Get to the park early and lines will be shorter.
Crowds get pretty small late at night - Photo by Express Monorail
OK, Dad, you just said crowds decline during the evening, does that mean staying late is a good idea?
Let me answer that will a sincere Maybe. It depends on what time the park closes. The Magic Kingdom closes at a different time almost every night (or so it seems). If closing time is well after Wishes (the firework show) then yes, you will find smaller crowds late.
We were there at 1am one morning. It was great. We rode Space Mountain without waiting in line and Buzz Lightyear 5 times in a row with no wait. It was fun running around and getting right back in line.
If the park closes within an hour of Wishes, it doesn't help a lot to stay late. Not that many guests leave, especially if there is a late evening parade.
Extra hours at the Magic Kingdom - Photo by Express Monorail
Extra Magic Hours
Get to the parks early. Stay late. Want a little help with that? Well, here you go ...
IF you stay in a Disney Hotel (and you should), you are eligible to participate in Extra Magic Hours. What are Extra Magic Hours? That's where Disney opens the parks 1 hour early or up to 3 hours late just for guests of Disney Hotels. Now that's a perk.
During Extra Magic Hours only the busiest rides are open, but that's the best part. You can ride all the mountain rides in just a few minutes. Believe me, this is a great way to avoid Magic Kingdom crowds.
The FASTPASS sign at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Photo by Samantha Decker
The Magic Kingdom has lots of rides with FASTPASS and it sometimes makes a lot of sense to use them. FASTPASS is a way to go directly to the front of every line. It can save you hours of standing in lines. It's easy to use and the best part is it's free.
So, which rides does Dad FASTPASS in the Magic Kingdom. We usually get passes for Space Mountain (and for a later ride on Buzz). If we'd ever get to Fantasyland early enough, we'd probably get them for Peter Pan's Flight. FASTPASS is just about the only way to ride Peter Pan's Flight.
Over in the new Fantasyland, you'll want one for Dumbo and the Barnstormer and Under the Sea. We do get them for the Jungle Cruise. If we were to ride both Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain, we'd get one for Splash.
Coming soon, you will be able to schedule up to 3 FASTPASSes before you leave home. That's going to be great for compulsive planners.
Parades and Fireworks
Parade and fireworks times are good times to miss the crowds. The only problem is you also miss the parade or fireworks.
One area to avoid during parade times is the Frontierland/Liberty Square area. This is a major place for guests to watch the parade, and they can get a little pushy. There is a walkway behind the crowd area that Disney tries to keep open, but sometimes they don't have a lot of luck.
Are you saying we should miss the parades?
Yep, but only if you've seen them before or will have an opportunity to see them at another time. It's not the ideal solution, but it is an option.
Everyone looks better in a poncho - Photo by ohhector
Raindrops keep falling on my head ... Hey, Mrs. Mom, Dad's singing again.
Yes, keep plugging through the rain. It rains a lot in Florida. There is a good chance that you will experience at least one rain shower during your stay. When that happens, keep going. (Yes, you can stay inside during the rain.) Lots of guests head for the cars when the rain comes, especially if it's a long rain.
Most of the rides in the Magic Kingdom are covered so rain is not a problem. Besides, everyone looks better in those ponchos.
Dad's Strategies for Parents of ...
Dad has some strategies if you have children that will want to see certain attractions. Younger children will want to go to Fantasyland first, older children you will probably want to go to Tomorrowland.
Older children will probably want to start in Tomorrowland - Photo by Express Monorail
Older Children (no Dumbo)
If you get to the park when it opens, first thing to do is head for Tomorrowland. If you are there first thing, Ride Space Mountain. If you're not there when the park opens (shame on you), grab a FastPass for Space Mountain and then do the rest of Tomorrowland. If you don't want to ride Space Mountain, substitute Buzz Lightyear's Ranger Spin.
Proceed around the park counter-clockwise.
After you finish Space Mountain, if you don't mind walking a lot, walk directly over to Splash Mountain and grab a FastPass. Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and hopefully your FastPass time will be up for Splash Mountain. If this works, you'll have 3 of the longest lines completed in record time.
The new Dumbo ride is amazing - Photo by Don Sullivan
Young ones (Dumbo do or die)
With the new Fantasyland if you have younger children, you should go to Fantasyland, go directly to Fantasyland, do not veer off to Tomorrowland, Adventureland or any other land. Getting a Starbucks is not even encouraged.
With the new stuff in Enchanted Forest (Belle and the Little Mermaid) and the new Storybook Circus (Dumbo and the Barnstormer) you need to go directly to Fantasyland. Since you can FASTPASS some of these rides, I'd actually start at Peter Pan, but then hit the new areas. Wow is this going to be fun.
Have a plan
Even though the Magic Kingdom is very easy to get around in, Dad suggests you have a plan, or at least a general idea of where you want to go next. You can save several hours a day of standing in lines by knowing how to get through the park and which rides to avoid during certain times.
Dad is really big on planning. Why? It's that nine attractions average thing. Who wants to spend a whole day standing in line? I'll almost guarantee you that those that plan see twice as many attractions as those that don't.
Dad's got lots of great information about Walt Disney World. But if you need help with planning, Touringplans.com is the place to go. They will help you to put together a strategy for your perfect day at the Magic Kingdom. The good folks at Touringplans wrote the book on how to plan your daily excursions in the parks. (The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World). They have plans, they have crowd information, they even have an app that shows how long the lines are at each ride. Check em out.
Dad's Bottom Line
Now wasn't that just fun? Who's ready to tackle the Magic Kingdom crowds now? You should be. Go ahead take Dad's challenge and see if you can beat all the crowds at the "Most Magical Place on Earth".