What to do at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom When the Crowds are Overwhelming.
We are entering some of Walt Disney World’s busiest times of the year, the Holiday Season. As you can imagine anytime schools are on vacation Disney will be crowded. Most people who are going to Disney do recognize this fact, however for each and every one of them, they hold out the hope that the park will not be “that crowded” and the believe that they will be able to ride every ride and do everything.
This is simply not true.
Nothing that I say in this post is groundbreaking; just simple strategies to use when the Magic Kingdom park is maxed out to full capacity. If you know that you are going at an extremely busy time of the year do not get frustrated. Instead maintain a flexible game plan so that you and your family have a wonderful time.
I am proving insight on this subject matter as I have been to the Magic Kingdom on the slowest of slow days but also on a full capacity day when the park temporary closed due to maximum occupancy. Note: the busiest time we visited was on Good Friday.
This post will focus on strategies specifically for the Magic Kingdom as it would be too difficult to lump all four parks together. Wouldn’t be very efficient would it?
Strategies to Ensure a Successful and Happy Time
1. Take advantage of Disney’s Fast Pass Plus system. Fast Pass Plus allows you to reserve three rides or shows in advance (60 days for Disney hotel guests, 30 days for everyone else). This is a life saver. I recommend that you reserve those that usually have the longest lines and are most meaningful to you. Basically, the thrill rides; Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, etc.
2. Get to the park early. I suggest planning on arriving at the Disney Transportation Center at least 60 minutes before the park opens. Take into account the time it takes to pay for parking, parking and taking the tram to the DTC. This could easily be an additional 30 minutes.
3. Identify Must Do’s. Hopefully, your 3 Fast Pass Plus are designated. Did you identify a list of other must do’s? If not be sure to do so. I use this rule of thumb – ask everyone in your party “what is the one can’t miss thing that they want do?” If there are five in your party, then there are five to dos. Note: these must do’s do not to be just rides, parades and restaurants may be on your list. Ensure that you have an achievable list and don’t feel like you need to hit every ride. Because when it’s crowded you won’t. This will great diminish your satisfaction level.
Five must do’s used in combination with Fast Pass Plus and getting to the park early is achievable.
4. Game On. Once the park officially opens be sure to make a straight line for those rides or shows that you have identified as Must Do’s and are not part of your Fast Pass Plus. Somehow, there will already be a line, and said line may already be 15-20 minutes long. Don’t get discouraged. Simply remember the Must Do list and that you will cross this off.
Even on peak days the Magic Kingdom will not become overwhelming until around 11am. If the park opens and 9am and you use the strategy of arriving early you should have a solid two hours to achieve your Must Do list.
5. Play it Smart. So the park is now opened and you are on your way to knocking out a few Must Do’s. Don’t get caught in the early morning time sucks. Avoid these traps when you first get into the park, even if it is your first visit to Disney.
- Taking professional Disney photos. While a snapshot may seem quick, one snapshot may lead to another and so on costing you approximately an additional 15 minutes.
- The numerous gift shops along Main Street. I know it is hard to resist. T-shirts, balloons, pins, etc. they act like light to a moth. Be strong and keep your cash in your pocket… For now.
- Early morning snacks. Again, the line may seem small but it may just end up costing you 15 minutes.
Get your photos taken, snacks eaten, merchandise purchased after a few rides are under your belt.
6. Give Me a Break. Make a plan to eat lunch outside of the Magic Kingdom and give yourself a 3-4 hour park break. Having a reprieve from all the people and long lines will be a breath of fresh air for everyone in your party.
Note: on average it may take 45 minutes to leave the park and drive to a spot to eat. Plus 45 minutes to come back to the park. This is similar if you are staying at a Disney property or not. The exceptions are if you are staying at the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian resorts as they are on the monorail line.
I recommend leaving the park for a late lunch around 1pm and returning to the park around 5pm.
7. All that Glitters is Not Just Gold. Even during the busiest of days when the park closes due to capacity there are rides and shows that you will not wait very long for. The reason is the following rides and shows are not the most popular rides. But they are enjoyable and since there tends to be limited lines it will make your time enjoyable.
Basically, if you can mix in your Must Do’s along with some non-thrill rides/shows and other activities, you may be able to hit quit amount of entertainment throughout the day.
Try these limited wait time rides & shows:
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover – usually you can get ride on for this relaxing ride, think open air monorail, that takes you through a bird’s eye view of Tomorrowland. Including a special peak into Space Mountain.
- Carousel of Progress – Most people actually enjoy this hybrid ride/show once it’s over. Located in Tomorrowland the lines tend to be very minimum.
- Tom Sawyer’s Island – located in Frontierland, this is a fun place to run around and explore. It also let’s everyone blow off some steam as they are moving and climbing and not just waiting around.
- Country Bear Jamboree – located in Frontierland. Kids do enjoy this decent show, not great. But the best part is that it is air conditioned and that you sit.
- Hall of Presidents – just think, animatronics were extremely innovative when they were introduced. It is enjoyable to hear from the past presidents. Besides you may learn a thing or two.
- Enchanted Tiki Room – I am not necessarily recommending this show. I just offer this as an alternative to keep you busy and ensuring that you are accomplishing activities at Disney.
- Liberty Square Steamboat – located next to the Hall of Presidents, this is a steamboat ride around Frontierland. Very relaxing and seldom crowded.
- Swiss Family Robinson Tree House – located next to the Jungle Cruise. Trek through a facsimile version of the famous family tree house. A great activity whose walking line is continuously moving.
8. Have Fun, Be Flexible. Having a plan and using these strategies will allow you to meander the park, soak in the sights and taste a little of the sweet fare offered in the numerous stands and kiosks.
As you can see there are several things to do when the park is crowded. Using these strategies will not alleviate the mass of people. It will however allow you to have a great time.
Enjoy. It really can be fun, even when crowded to the extreme.