Our Walt Disney World crowd reports have emphasized the best and worst days to do Magic Kingdom for the remainder of 2023, and the dramatic difference in wait times and attendance numbers in choosing the “right” vs. “wrong” days to do MK. This essentially reiterates that, with lists of what should be the least and most crowded dates in September through December 2023.
This is really nothing new. As we’ve discussed countless times, Party Season disrupts crowd dynamics and creates a “porcupine pattern” to wait times, but it does so predictably. Both Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party push attendance much higher on the dates they’re not occurring and lower on days of the events.
Magic Kingdom crowd dynamics during Party Season have been one of the key discussion points of our August through December crowd calendars for several years. It’s actually one of the easiest “predictions” we make. Those are air quotes around prediction because this pattern has played out predictably and consistently for at least the last decade. It’s akin to forecasting longer lines for Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train than Carousel of Progress and Country Bear Jamboree.
For our part, we’ve been strongly recommending that readers visit Magic Kingdom during the day on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights, and then bouncing to another park at around 4 pm. Park Hopping is essential during party season.
The underlying rationale for this is that many day guests avoid Magic Kingdom on party dates because the park hours are shorter and Happily Ever After fireworks are not shown to regular guests. This results in significantly lighter crowds on days of the holiday parties when Magic Kingdom closes at 6 pm.
These same guests then flock to non-party days in Magic Kingdom. For visitors without the Park Hopper option (which is a lot of people), visiting Magic Kingdom on non-party nights is the obvious, intuitive choice. For the same ticket price, they get several more hours in the park and get to see the fireworks.
After all, Magic Kingdom closes at 10 pm on non-party nights, which amounts to staying an extra 4 hours later. In theory, it’s a no-brainer!
But that line of thinking is exactly why our zig when they zag recommendation has been to do Magic Kingdom on days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and to Park Hop somewhere else around 4 pm.
Even though Magic Kingdom has longer hours on these days, you will often get less done than you could before 4 pm on a party day. So long as you’re comfortable missing the fireworks or are fine watching from a resort restaurant or the TTC, we highly recommend doing your days in Magic Kingdom on party dates.
For those with Park Hopper tickets, this is the real no-brainer. You can do Magic Kingdom until 4 pm on the day of MNSSHP or MVMCP, and then bounce to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios and have dinner and enjoy the nighttime spectaculars in one of those two parks.
On a non-party day, you can start out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and/or EPCOT, and then bounce back to Magic Kingdom in the evening hours to catch Happily Ever After and nighttime in the park. If nighttime in Magic Kingdom is a must for you (and we do recommend it) this is the optimal approach for minimizing your exposure to crowds and congestion.
With that said, minimizing is definitely the operative word, and not “avoiding entirely.” Watching the Happily Ever fireworks from inside Magic Kingdom during Party Season is pure pandemonium because a lot of other guests will be in a similar boat with fewer nights to see Happily Ever After.
You might end up wishing you’d just skipped them entirely or stuck to watching them outside the park, but at least you’ll see them! (Speaking of which, see our Fireworks Viewing Guide for Magic Kingdom. In particular, look to the less crowded spots and avoid Main Street!)
One of the added (potential) upsides to this is doing Early Entry at 7:30 am. If Magic Kingdom park opening moves forward to 8 am on your dates, that makes this approach a double no-brainer (before you get pedantic about “doubling nothing,” it makes sense to me to those of us without brains in the first place).
Sadly, Walt Disney World appears to be moving away from 8 am opening times on MNSSHP dates during the doldrums of the early fall off-season. We’re hopeful that those openings return in October through December 2023, but we really have no clue as to whether that’ll happen. We never expected Magic Kingdom to stop with the 8 am openings in the first place.
Some readers have doubted this or think it’ll stop working as “word gets out,” and instead opted for the counter-counterintuitive approach of avoiding Magic Kingdom. But in plain terms, that’s just the intuitive approach…and it’s what the vast majority of Magic Kingdom visitors will do.
While I certainly wish more people would heed my warnings and follow my advice, this is utter nonsense. If Walt Disney World visitors were following this blog’s suggestions on any meaningful scale, Country Bear Jamboree would have perpetual 90 minute waits, Sanaa would be the most coveted ADR, Chester & Hester would be out of business, and Mickey would’ve had his chef’s hat revoked by now. None of those things have even come close to happening.
Most park-goers aren’t reading blogs like this, and many who do don’t follow the advice for a variety of reasons. Don’t overthink it or try playing 4D chess–this strategy has worked for at least the last decade. It’s highly unlikely that 2023 will be the year things suddenly change.
Now that we’ve explained the why of this, here’s the list of least-crowded dates at Magic Kingdom for the remainder of 2023:
- September 8, 2023
- September 10, 2023
- September 12, 2023
- September 15, 2023
- September 17, 2023
- September 19, 2023
- September 22, 2023
- September 24, 2023
- September 26, 2023
- September 28, 2023
- September 29, 2023
- October 1, 2023
- October 3, 2023
- October 5, 2023
- October 6, 2023
- October 9, 2023
- October 10, 2023
- October 12, 2023
- October 13, 2023
- October 15, 2023
- October 17, 2023
- October 19, 2023
- October 20, 2023
- October 22, 2023
- October 24, 2023
- October 26, 2023
- October 27, 2023
- October 29, 2023
- October 31, 2023
- November 1, 2023
- November 9, 2023
- November 10, 2023
- November 13, 2023
- November 14, 2023
- November 16, 2023
- November 17, 2023
- November 19, 2023
- November 21, 2023
- November 22, 2023
- November 26, 2023
- November 28, 2023
- November 30, 2023
- December 1, 2023
- December 3, 2023
- December 5, 2023
- December 7, 2023
- December 8, 2023
- December 10, 2023
- December 12, 2023
- December 14, 2023
- December 15, 2023
- December 17, 2023
- December 19, 2023
- December 21, 2023
- December 22, 2023
As for the most crowded dates, it’s basically just the opposite of the above–the dates that are not listed. In particular, you should be mindful of non-party dates that are sandwiched between or among party dates. This is a common red flag from mid-October through December 2023, when Party Season “expands” from 2-3 days per week to 3-4 days per week.
The schedule can vary around holiday weeks, but days that are typically going to be worst are Mondays and Wednesdays. Monday because it’s been the busiest day in Magic Kingdom throughout 2023–and because there are usually parties on Sunday and Tuesday. Wednesday because, even though it’s less busy than Monday for most of the year, there are often parties on Tuesday as well as Thursday and Friday. That means Wednesday is frequently the one day out of a 4 day stretch to not close early during Party Season.
In previous years, it used to be the case that Saturdays were the worst day of the week at Magic Kingdom during Party Season. That may end up being true again during the heart of the holiday season, but it has not yet been the case. See Why Are Weekends So Slow at Walt Disney World? for an explanation of the new-normal for Saturdays and Sundays that has emerged in 2023.
Another thing to note is that the above least crowded list is relative to the dates within each week or general date range.
For example, Magic Kingdom will be less busy during the daytime hours on September 15 than it is on September 11. (At least barring a hurricane scare or some other unforeseen circumstance.) That’s a pretty safe prediction that I’m incredibly comfortable making, and with a high degree of confidence.
However, if you asked me which day will be busier, September 11 (non-party day) or November 13 (party day), my honest answer would be “I don’t know.” The former is occurring during the heart of the early fall off-season during a time when most days, ones when there’s no MNSSHP, should be relatively manageable. The latter is following Veterans Day weekend at the start of the Christmas season, at a time that’s typically busier.
In other words, if you’re a local who has a wide open calendar and wants to pick an assortment of dates based upon absolute crowd levels and nothing else, aim for the earlier dates in September. There’s a strong probability that those will end up having the lowest wait times of all dates on the list when the dust settles.
In actuality, we doubt many people plan or think that way. For starters, nothing but early to mid-September visits would be pretty brutal. The weather is usually at its worst this time of year, with higher heat and humidity, and a greater likelihood of rain and storms.
For another thing, who is going to frontload their Halloween visits in September, and then skip the entirety of October through Christmas? I’m sure this fictional person exists–Walt Disney World fans are an interesting bunch!–but that type of use case is an extreme outlier. Most normal visitors, whether locals or tourists, want to know which dates within a given range, will be best and worst. And that’s what this covers!
Point being, crowd levels are not static on the aforementioned list of the least crowded dates. Magic Kingdom tends to get progressively busier over the course of Party Season, but even that is a generalization. There will be slower windows between holiday weeks throughout November and December 2023.
The real good news is that even as party days get busier (relative to those earlier in the Party Season), the increase tends to be even greater for non-party dates. Stated differently, the gap in wait times actually increases on non-party vs. party days in October through December. That’s due to a mix of higher crowd levels as a whole during those months and more party nights each week–thus consolidating crowds on fewer non-party days.
For example, Magic Kingdom’s crowd level might end up being 1/10 with an average wait time of 25 minutes on the party day of September 15. On the non-party Monday of September 11 only a few days earlier, it could be 4/10 with an average wait time of 32 minutes and crowd level of 3/10. That’s a difference of 7 minutes.
On the party day of November 13, Magic Kingdom’s average wait time could be 35 minutes or a crowd level 6/10. However, the non-party day of November 15 likely will spike significantly, possibly to a crowd level of 9/10 or 10/10 and an average wait time of 45 minutes or higher. Even though the crowd levels and average waits are significantly higher than their September counterparts, the benefit of choosing the least-crowded date actually increased, as the gap in wait times grew to 10 minutes.
For what it’s worth, this is not just me randomly manufacturing numbers. This is exactly what happened last year. Those hypothetical numbers were arrived upon by looking at last year’s data and adjusting for day-of-week differences. Similar patterns played out in 2019, too. (Data from 2020-2021 is too full of anomalies to be useful or predictive of anything.)
Ultimately, that’s why we strongly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom during the daytime hours of both Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Hopefully “showing our work” on some of this helps you make more sense of this dynamic, and why it’ll almost certainly continue to be true for the remainder of 2023.
The bottom line is that there’s no reason to believe days when the Magic Kingdom closes at 6 pm will be busier than days the park closes at 10 pm (or hopefully 11 pm once the heart of party season arrives). Crowd levels and average wait times from 2023 thus far and the entirety of last year’s Party Season are pretty conclusive on this. It’s also corroborated by years of data from 2019 and earlier. And that’s just from a numbers perspective, which does not measure “feels like” crowds. From heaps of anecdotal experience, we can assure you that the gap is even greater there–especially on Main Street before and after Happily Ever After.
Of course, this is just the objective angle. There are still compelling subjective arguments in favor of doing Magic Kingdom on non-party days, especially if you don’t have Park Hopper tickets and value evenings in the park. And that’s totally understandable! Our focus here is primarily on the numbers, as many fans and visitors see the calendar–and an extra 3-4 hours in Magic Kingdom–and draw the entirely logical conclusion that they’re better off with those longer days. The problem is that this is the thought process of most guests, and you can actually come out ahead by zigging when they zag!
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Does this convince you that you can, from an objective perspective, come out ahead by doing party shortened days at Magic Kingdom? Or, are you still unpersuaded, favoring the longer day and subjective superiority of nighttime in Magic Kingdom and getting to see Happily Ever After? Is September through December 2023 going to be the timeframe that defies historical precedent and logic, with days of MNSSHP and MVMCP being busier? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!