Monday, February 26, 2024

Worst Week of Winter is Coming at Disney World

One of many busiest weeks of 2023 will quickly arrive at Walt Disney World, to the shock of many vacationers who count on winter to be low season at Walt Disney World. This put up covers dates to keep away from, why it’ll be so busy, and what to do to beat the lengthy traces and crowds should you’re already planning a go to throughout this timeframe.

Let’s begin with the excellent news. It’s at the moment low season at Walt Disney World! It is a very latest growth and fairly the distinction to our final replace, Colossal Christmas Crowds Cap Off Walt Disney World’s Busiest 12 months Ever! Now that the vacation break is over, faculty is again in session, and the Walt Disney World Marathon is over, wait instances have plummeted throughout the board.

The dangerous information is that longtime followers anticipating attendance ranges throughout mid-January or February on par with a decade in the past (and even 5 years in the past) will nonetheless be sorely disenchanted. In final yr’s Winter Is Not Off-Season at Walt Disney World, we clarify how January and February crowds have grown since ~2017, and what’s the brand new regular for this time of yr. With that stated, in case your body of reference is final yr as an alternative of a number of years in the past, you would possibly truly be pleasantly stunned…

Within the span of two weeks, wait instances have basically been lower in half. The height week of the vacation season noticed common wait instances of 61 minutes, and the next week solely dropped to 54 minutes. Remember the fact that these are averages, taking into consideration unpopular and perpetual no-wait rides. That means that dozens of headliners had triple-digit wait instances

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance peaked at 320 minutes and Avatar Flight of Passage hit 240 minutes–to our information, these had been the best highs. We noticed a number of different rides at or above 180 minutes, which occurred with regularity these two weeks.

It’s additionally notable that the primary week of January was so busy. That timeframe has been getting busier and busier resulting from Osceola and Orange County faculties being out of session (and a rising variety of locals), plus the lifting of Annual Move blockouts, plus Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend within the final 4 years or so. However, that is the busiest that week has ever been.

With that stated, this isn’t a typical backward-looking crowd report. Reasonably, we wish to deliver your consideration to an upcoming week that shall be actually busy–most likely within the high 5 worst weeks of all the yr, and undoubtedly within the high 10. Absent a giant shock, it is going to be probably the most crowded window of the primary quarter of 2023.

That timeframe is roughly February 17 to February 26, 2023. This explicit week plus the weekends round it is going to be dangerous resulting from Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras as soon as once more coinciding. This occurs now and again, and every time it does, these weeks are notably dangerous.

Compounding these crowds, there’s the 2023 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend from February 23 to 26. That is the fifteenth Anniversary of that in style runDisney occasion, and it way back offered out. In essence, this implies there are two in style lengthy weekends for Walt Disney World guests plus the week of Mardi Gras, all on high of each other.

To make issues worse, reductions usually are not blocked out for these journey dates. This isn’t actually such a giant deal for room reductions, as there’s solely a lot lodge stock on-site at Walt Disney World. Whether or not particular provides induce extra Florida holidays or just shift the stays between off-site and on-site motels is debatable. (My guess is that it does transfer the needle a bit, however that on-site lodge stock doesn’t have as important of an influence on crowds as many followers consider.)

The larger influence is prone to consequence from the 2023 Florida Resident Ticket Deal for Walt Disney World. Why that is blocked out for a number of weeks in March and April however not that timeframe is past me–most likely a matter of precedent or easy oversight. However, that ticket deal may even have an effect–particularly in the course of the last dates of the 2023 EPCOT Pageant of the Arts, which is in style with locals.

Talking of which, that occasion’s finale will likewise contribute to crowds even exterior of the ticket deal. Floridians and even some non-local followers will prove for the conclusion of the more and more in style EPCOT Pageant of the Arts and the ‘grand finale’ of the Disney on Broadway live performance sequence (amongst different issues).

Different wildcards shall be experience refurbishments. We already know that Splash Mountain closes completely on January 23 and that TRON Lightcycle Run received’t be open till April 2023. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rock ‘n’ Curler Coaster goes down throughout this window and it’s additionally doable that Tower of Terror will nonetheless be at half-capacity. Hopefully extra isn’t added to the 2023 Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar for the second half of February.

An identical confluence of circumstances occurred simply a few years in the past at Walt Disney World. Crowds began swelling a few days prematurely of the Presidents’ Day (and so forth.) lengthy weekend and acquired actually heavy throughout Mardi Gras week. On our extremely scientific scale of LSU and Saints shirts noticed within the parks, principally all the state of Louisiana visited Walt Disney World that week.

The ultimate weekend of Mardi Gras was notably busy. All 4 Walt Disney World theme parks hit capability for all ticket varieties and Walt Disney World prolonged weekend park hours on the final minute. That got here after the corporate prolonged hours a number of instances, and the entire hours ended up being about 3 hours per day longer than what was then regular.

Because it turned out, the week of Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras was one of many busiest weeks of the yr at Walt Disney World. (Ditto Common Orlando.) It was particularly dangerous for Magic Kingdom the place wait instances had been on par with the week main as much as New 12 months’s Eve, and better than the week main as much as Christmas. It’s an analogous story when wanting again at prior years when Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras coincided.

The important thing distinction the final time this occurred is that park attendance was nonetheless being closely restricted, with Walt Disney World nonetheless throttling Park Move reservations and capping capability far under regular. That was additionally amidst what was in any other case a really gradual winter, which was largely as a result of first massive winter spike in COVID circumstances spooking would-be vacationers. It nonetheless ended up being one of many busiest weeks of that total yr.

Final yr, the 2 holidays didn’t overlap. Regardless of that, the week of Presidents’ Day was nonetheless one of many worst weeks of the yr–proper up there with the height of Spring Break, and Thanksgiving. It was surpassed by Christmas and New 12 months’s Eve by a reasonably extensive margin, however was nonetheless up there, with far larger wait instances than the low to average weeks earlier than it in January and February.

We’ve been discussing this week for some time in wait time stories and this week is a “purple flag” in our up to date 2023 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars. Once more, we’ve predicted it is going to be the busiest week of the primary quarter of the yr, and doubtless one of many worst 5 weeks of all the yr at Walt Disney World.

However, we’re pointing it out and drawing extra direct consideration to how dangerous February 17 to February 26, 2023 shall be as a result of we’ve discovered that even with our warnings prior to now, these crowds have caught Walt Disney World guests without warning.

what they are saying? “Idiot me as soon as, strike one. However idiot me twice… strike three.” ~Michael Scott

It’s comprehensible that the spike in crowds continues to shock Walt Disney World followers regardless of there being clear precedent for the Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras spike. That is probably partially resulting from stories of low crowd ranges for the month or so beforehand lull individuals right into a false sense of safety and optimism that low season developments will proceed.

If you happen to’re seeing rock-bottom wait instances one week, you most likely don’t count on these to (basically) double in a single day. And but, we’ve seen precisely that occur earlier than. It’ll most likely come near occurring once more when evaluating wait instances from the primary half of February 2023 to the second half.

Then there’s the truth that many planners usually are not conscious that Presidents’ Day is a protracted weekend that’s in style for getaways to Walt Disney World. Not many individuals have that time off work, so it most likely doesn’t register as a vacation that may meaningfully influence attendance. Presidents’ Day will not be precisely like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New 12 months’s Eve.

It’s a kind of decrease profile holidays that doesn’t entice quite a lot of consideration, however nonetheless has an outsized influence on crowds at Walt Disney World. It’s rather a lot like Veterans Day in November.

The diploma to which a few states or a area having a faculty break can influence Walt Disney World crowd ranges is definitely fairly important. If you happen to reside in different areas of america, you is probably not conscious that Mardi Gras is a “massive deal” and in style journey interval for the Southeast.

It’s additionally a preferred winter break for some Northeast faculty districts. If you happen to don’t reside in these places, it’s an comprehensible blind spot. The identical factor occurs with Jersey Week, which impacts crowd ranges at Walt Disney World. Individuals who reside in these places typically know they’re in style break instances.

Nonetheless, should you’re a Midwesterner debating pulling your youngsters out of college to flee the chilly, you could be oblivious to that–there’s no apparent or intuitive motive the primary half of February 2023 shall be so a lot better than the second half!

I converse from some extent of expertise right here. I’m a local Michigander and my mother and father used to tug me out of college for a short lived reprieve from the snow and subzero temperatures round this time of yr, merely focusing on dates to go to Florida based mostly on our climate at residence.

Furthermore, I used to be additionally clueless in regards to the influence Mardi Gras had on crowds at Walt Disney World till experiencing the week within the parks and noticing a really seen presence of LSU and Saints shirts (no such love for the poor Pelicans). That’s not a joke–you’ll discover the identical should you go to that week!

Another excuse you might not count on February 17 to February 26, 2023 to be dangerous is as a result of none of these dates are yellow or gray on the Disney Park Move calendar (but). Actually, everything of 2023 is at the moment inexperienced, which may even lull some planners right into a false sense of safety.

Whereas this was a very good early indicator of heavy attendance post-reopening, the reservations calendars have been largely rendered out of date extra not too long ago. Walt Disney World nonetheless makes use of them to redistribute crowds, pushing individuals in the direction of Animal Kingdom and EPCOT, however they usually don’t present advance warning of heavy crowds. Some dates nonetheless go gray, however that always doesn’t happen till the final minute–and a few very busy days have maintained availability.

If you happen to’re a Midwesterner (or anybody for that matter–however a particular shoutout to my fellow Michiganders!) who’s at the moment freaking out since you picked February 17 to February 26, 2023 (or dates inside that window) to go to Walt Disney World: don’t. Positive, these dates shall be busy. Nevertheless it’s additionally a superb time of yr within the park with comfy climate (actually higher than what you’ll have at residence!)

On high of that, following a very good itinerary and using good technique is extra essential than selecting the “proper” dates. And as we’ve seen on many events prior to now, even those that select dates that ought to be good have had that undermined by stunning crowds, disruptive climate, and so forth.

To that finish, it’s fully doable to beat dangerous crowds by using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, Early Entry, Prolonged Night Hours, rope drop, and so forth. We cowl the most effective & worst method for every park in Greatest Time-Saving Methods for Walt Disney World. If you happen to’re solely going to learn one planning put up, make it that. There are nice methods to beat the crowds–even on busy days–with out shopping for Genie+ or Particular person Lightning Lanes.

By merely arriving early or staying late, you possibly can beat the worst of the noon crowds. (In fact, that’s “easy” in concept however tougher in apply, particularly when you’ve got young children. That’s a giant motive why wait instances are decrease very first thing within the morning and later within the evenings.) Past that, you’ll want to additionally try our Walt Disney World Itineraries for plans of assault, together with choices with and with out Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.

Talking of which, we have now a ~4,500 phrase Information to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for individuals who wish to completely grasp paid FastPass. Weeks like this, it’s undoubtedly a very good choice for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT.

Lastly, I’ll draw particular consideration to the 2023 After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are solely two of those scheduled in February 2023, however oddly sufficient, one falls dead-center within the window of the worst winter crowds and the opposite is simply earlier than it begins. At current, neither of those dates are offered out (that’s prone to change very quickly).

Whereas we’re essential of “overbuying” upcharge choices resulting from FOMO and so forth, we truly love After Hours at DHS. It’s undoubtedly a splurge, nevertheless it’s one which’s truly definitely worth the cash. It provides a VIP vibe to the go to, and at a fraction of the worth of hiring a tour information. This shall be doubly or triply true in February 2023 when After Hours is much more helpful as contrasted with a standard day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (I’m truthfully stunned that Walt Disney World scheduled After Hours that week–they usually don’t do these occasions when attendance projections are excessive.)

For individuals who are desirous about a go to to Walt Disney World this winter that’s exterior the second half of February 2023, we’d advocate consulting our February 2023 Crowd Calendar and March 2023 Crowd Calendar for particular finest and worst dates. Particularly, keep away from Osceola and Orange County Okay-12 Spring Breaks. Identical goes for our April 2023 Crowd Calendar, though the spike there ought to be extra apparent (Easter).

The excellent news in relation to the Spring Break season is that Florida’s breaks largely happen earlier this yr than these faculty districts which have Easter week off. This could unfold out crowds, quite than the comparative consolidation of Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras. (This isn’t to say Spring Break 2023 shall be uncrowded. It is not going to. Simply that everything of that busy season isn’t being condensed right into a single week, as is the case right here.)

In the end, we’ve been warning for over a yr that February 17 to 26, 2023 shall be dangerous at Walt Disney World. Though this understandably catches trip planners without warning, this isn’t a daring prediction–it’s one backed by at the very least a decade of precedent.

The open query is simply how dangerous it’ll find yourself being. For no matter motive, runDisney is opting to carry the Princess Half Marathon that weekend. That’s additionally not unprecedented, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a perplexing choice given the rising crowds. There’s additionally the truth that Walt Disney World has not blocked out reductions for these dates, which can also be perplexing however fully precedented. All of this might imply that Disney’s inside attendance forecasts aren’t displaying any trigger for concern…or it may very well be a whole oversight.

We suspect that it’s the latter; it wouldn’t be the primary (2nd, third…thirty third, forty fifth, and so forth.) time that Walt Disney World has whiffed on crowd projections and scheduling. Suffice to say, we advocate planning your winter “low season” visits to Walt Disney World accordingly to keep away from these “shock” peak season attendance. If it’s too late for that, do what you possibly can to place your self to beat the potential crowds!

Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Study motels on our Walt Disney World Accommodations Opinions web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Opinions. To economize on tickets or decide which sort 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 novel have a look at intelligent objects to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Journey Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, the most effective place to begin is our Walt Disney World Journey Planning Information for the whole lot it is advisable know!


Have you ever visited Walt Disney World throughout when Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day coincided prior to now? What did you consider the crowds? Any parks, instances of day, or days of the week noticeably worse than the others? What’s your expectation for February 17-26, 2023? If you happen to’ve visited within the weeks earlier than/after Mardi Gras, did you discover a giant distinction in crowd ranges? Do you agree or disagree with something in our crowd report? Any questions we can assist you reply? Listening to your suggestions–even whenever you disagree with us–is each fascinating to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas under within the feedback!

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