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The Many Months of Walt Disney World Crowds

Updated on August 6, 2011

We all know where the Walt Disney World Resort is. (It's in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, pea-brain!) We know how to dress for the right situations in our vacations, what rides to go on or avoid, and what to do when we meet the characters.

Well, the last thing we need to know is when to do it.

What if you run into lines so long that you'll fear that you'll miss the parade? How would you react if you see a huge human herd heading the same direction as you? Well, I observed several factors regarding the right time to go - academic terms (Keep in mind that we, as Americans, are not alone in this case; South Americans have their vacation times too.), federal holidays, work days, and youth competitions. As I scroll through the calendar, I research each month in terms of how crowded the parks really are.


What to Expect
At the beginning of the month, the crowds are as insane due to the New Year's holiday (Not to worry - the madness concludes at least the Epiphany, or the 6th for the politically correct.), but most of the month can spell less daunting, manic waits.

There are two events you really need touring plans for - the Walt Disney World Marathon and MLK's birthday, in which kids are out of school, either celebrating the latter or cheering their kin on that day. Also, this month is a summer month in South America, so expect many turismos (not just the Brazilian tour groups you are really, really familiar with) during the month.

My Verdict
With the exception of MLK Day, the series of footraces, and New Year's weekend, I think January is tops for going! The forecast calls for turismo chanting and antics, though. (They bring in a lot of revenue to the resort too, on the bright side!)

For More on Turismos

Please read Turismos: Tour Groups of Central Florida for vital information on the whens and tips on surviving your Disney vacation should they get on your nerves!


What to Expect
February is more varied in crowd levels, depending on whether Valentine's Day falls on a weekday or a weekend. President's Day is a fairly crowded day, as school is generally out.

If Super Bowl is in the state, expect crazier crowds as well (especially at the Magic Kingdom, where there will be a ticker-tape parade for the MVP). It's still summer in South America, so expect some turismos (mostly the Argentinean youth herds vs their more notorious cousins, the Brazilian tour groups), but they will die down by early March.

My Verdict
With those exceptions stated above, it's a bit like the previous month - a great time to go!


What to Expect
The first two weeks of March, to say the least, is generally less crowded, but as the month ends, spring break revelers commandeer the parks, incrementing wait times to near-crazy crowds. It gets even worse during the Easter weekend, should the holiday fall on this month. Luckily, there is less chance of turismo invasion, since the students have returned to school in their nations! Oh, and there's always the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival that makes it so totally great!

My Verdict
I am partial to early March, but the middle to latent part of the month, depending on when Easter falls, is a great time to enjoy the freebies, like the recently annexed Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine near the World...


What to Expect
Even with very slim chances of turismo mania during that spring break month and determination when Easter hops around (it's a movable holiday, as in March), expect high crowds - school and college are out for the holidays, so expect long lines, like an hour or two of waiting. Fortunately, there's always month's end, when school is once again in session and crowds are more bearable. (Great time to check out the aforementioned Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, isn't it?)

My Verdict
Better plan a naycation or a staycation during Spring Break, unless you have a great touring plan. Better yet, head for the end of the month as crowds are much less than a pain in the hiney.


What to Expect
Spring Break may (no pun intended) be over, but the crowd levels during the first two or three weeks do it for many a Disneyphile. By the last week, the levels increment as kids once again head out of their homerooms and into the World by Memorial Day and the rest of the month, so I'd recommend that you go elsewhere less crowded, like the great outdoors and smarm.

My Verdict
With the exception of Memorial Day and the end of the month, May is tops for summer weather and less crowd-related discomfort.


What to Expect
Now, June is getting much hairier - because:

  1. It's a summer month for Americans and most of the Northern Hemisphere. (I'm telling you, it's going to be hot as a sauna!)
  2. It's when most schools end their academic terms here, and finally,
  3. It's the end of first semester's end for the South Americans!

On number three, that spells out another peak season - turismos! Of course, there's more to people wearing identical shirts than just families in reunion, school groups, and most turismos.

The first week of it hosts "Gay Days" (Sorry to offend you, my Christian readers.), where LGBT individuals show their pride with those red shirts and tanks in the parks, with morally blatant PDA (public displays of affection) abound. If you are really scared of such an event ruining your day in moral terms, check the date and the park participants are expected to spend there so you can avoid them. (I for one did not experience WDW that time of the month, but if I did, I'd be stumped!

My Verdict
If you go early in that month, save for Gay Days, it's not too bad - trust me.


What to Expect
July is like June, only even worse and more excruciating. To make matters even worse, the Fourth of July does not a magical Disney vacation make (despite the great fireworks displays in either the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or Disney's Hollywood Studios) - and on that day (as well as the rest of the month), expect high turismo capacity (so much for it being an American holiday) as well as out-of-towner and schoolchildren capacity!

I for one experienced Disney that month as a child and I thought to myself, never again would I do it that month. I saw loads and loads of turismos on my vacation, and yes, I was one of those out-of-state people (as a former Jersey Girl) vacationing there for the holiday. I had fun anyway, but that's the month I would avoid (unless turismos and huge crowds appeal to me, but mostly the former because they are doing their job bringing money to the World).

My Verdict
Unless you have a great touring plan and the willingness to snag a FASTPASS early (and I mean super-early - the turismo tour guides will expire each distribution center), go somewhere else, but not in a theme park elsewhere in Central Florida. (I went to Busch Gardens, which is as local to Tampa as me, twice as far as Julys go and saw the same - turismos and out-of-towners - read the sidebar for more details!)


What to Expect
Depending on whether school starts here in Florida and some of elsewhere in the US, mid-to-late August is Disney-trip Ideal - summery and not too crowded. The turismos all but ended their trek around the World and most of Central Florida as their teens head back to school and crowds are moderately light to moderate.

My Verdict
Mid-to-late August is worth the visit - slimmer crowds are a must in this summer month!


What to Expect
September is a high month for hurricanes - so be prepared for bad weather. Nevertheless, from the day after Labor Day onwards, it's the most quietest month to see your child get his fright of his life by Eeyore (Oops - did I scare you, little boy?) or to commit to your first ride on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. It's great because the kids are mostly at school. You get to gather your group and fashion yourselves as a mock turismo, flag and all, at the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

My Verdict
If you don't mind hurricane season, love light crowds, and like to dress up early, September is practically perfect for a Disney vacay or daycay!


What to Expect
Like September, it's usually pleasant as heck - but it's a bit crowded thanks to fall holidays in the UK. Anyway, there's the Epcot International Food And Wine Festival as a delicious event to enjoy as you savor the light to moderate crowds. And didn't I mention that you can come dressed as a turismo on select nights at the Magic Kingdom for its annual Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party?

My Verdict
October's the smarm - less crowds and more fun than toilet paper draping over your neighbor's house on All Hallows' Ev'en!


What to Expect
November leading to the week before Thanksgiving is something you'll be really thankful for - generally nice weather, not to mention manageable crowds. If you don't mind the dreaded "Christmas creep," there's the annual Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom! (Oh, and Disney's Hollywood Studios is doing their Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights starting each early-to-mid November too in recent times.) After Thanksgiving will be the same as always!

But another crowd-drawing happening in WDW is Jersey Week, a time when schools close for a few days for teachers to attend its education association's convention. Some fly or drive out of state to WDW for a few days during that weekend, but others take it further and do the whole 7-8 days.

Thanksgiving (as well as some of Jersey Week) is an exceptional time for a Disney trip, but the rest of the month is tastier than turkey and the trimmings.


What to Expect
Well, what's there to expect that month? Christmastime is in full swing all over the World! Magic Kingdom has its Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot has its Holidays Around the world (with its Candlelight Processional), Disney's Hollywood Studios has its Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and Disney's Animal Kingdom has its Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.

Oh, and as for the crowds, the mid-latent to latent part (like the week before Christmas till the end of the month till New Years Eve, another crowded-as-heck day) of the month requires a very good touring plan, and I mean a very good one.

Christmas (aka December the 25th) is a popular vacation day for Disney vacations, and I for one felt the crucifying pain on that day in one of mine as a child. With Muetti, the late Vatti, and my ex-cousin, we solely went to Snow White's Scary Adventures and "it's a small world" (I lower-cased the name of the latter for more emphasis, as well as how Disney formats it.) on that fateful daycation in the Cinderella Castle-turned-cake Magic Kingdom, when the whole resort celebrated its silver jubilee.

Also, the end of Pop Warner Championship Week and the start of summer vacay down in South America (Didn't I mention that the beneficial turismos will be in full force starting in the median of the month?) are factors to watch for, too!

My Verdict
Enjoy those Christmas d├ęcor in the early parts of the month, but don't make my childhood mistake of going there dead on Christmas - you'll really regret it (unless a touring plan is well thought out)! Same principle with Hogmanay, or New Years Eve for you non-Scots!

But What About All Year Crowd Management?

For all-year crowd management, here are rules of thumb to be a martinet of:

  1. Here's something for you - the FASTPASS is a perennial Disney Vacation staple! Get to the distribution kiosk early, use your tickets to do it, and grab it while it's hot.
  2. Go to the parks early, even on light days.
  3. Go to the area of lighter volume, opposite of where the majority goes.
  4. Go half-day or (if staying at a resort) take a break - crowds will be lighter later in the day.

Regardless of season or month, those rules should come in handy and should be essential to save you and your traveling party some grief. May all your years be filled with Disney magic!

talfonso may not be a travel agent, but she is a writer for mostly Walt Disney World and other Central Florida attractions.

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