On Friday, Disney World hit a major milestone, shattering post-pandemic attendance records in the parks.
In March 2020, in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, Disney World, as well as Disneyland Resort in California and Disney’s international theme park resorts ceased operations.
A Sad Season for Disney Parks Fans
It was the first time since July 1955, just before the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, that the world was devoid of a single operational Disney park, and for fans of the parks, it was a sad and unsettling time for sure as no one knew when the parks would reopen.
Disney’s domestic and international theme park resorts eventually reopened to guests but at vastly different intervals. Because some of Disney’s theme parks in other countries had to yield to government statutes that differed from Florida’s mandates, reopening dates varied by several months, and some of the international parks opened only to close again multiple times.
Disney World Reopens
Disneyland Resort remained closed for 13 months, reopening in April 2021, but Disney World guests were thrilled as the four Florida theme parks reopened four months after the initial closure. Beginning on July 11, 2020, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom began welcoming guests through the gates, and two days later, on July 13, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopened.
But the experience was very different than pre-pandemic park days, as park capacities were set at a fraction of normal attendance in the parks–especially during the summer months–and every guest who visited was required to undergo temperature checks and symptom screenings. They were also required to wear masks at all times in the parks, and many of the most popular attractions and restaurants remained closed.
Now, more than three years later, the parks are thriving, as evidenced by a milestone Disney World hit on Friday.
A Post-Pandemic Record
According to information compiled by the website Thrill-Data.com, the average wait time for rides and attractions in the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort on Friday, December 29, 2023, was 70 minutes, or one hour and 10 minutes, breaking the previous post-pandemic record of 68 minutes, which was set the day before–Thursday, December 28, 2023.
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) December 30, 2023
The following chart shows historical wait times at Disney World, as measured in minutes, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time. This screenshot only captures numbers back to October 2022, but at Thrill-Data.com, wait times are shown for years earlier as well.
Is This Record a Good Thing or . . . ?
Though we’re all about record-breaking and setting records, as those are usually good things, when it comes to “record-breaking attendance” at a Disney park, most of us know what that means–and it becomes very real if we happen to be visiting the parks during those “record-breaking” seasons.
On Friday, wait times for some attractions exceeded five hours–more than 300 minutes–and on Saturday morning, wait times were already high–some of them more than three hours–and as New Year’s Eve approaches, those times are expected to grow even higher.
Since New Year’s Eve falls on a weekend this year, it’s quite possible that December 30 and December 31, 2023, could break Disney World’s post-pandemic wait time records yet again. Only time will tell!