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Sunday Speculation: 3 Things Possibly Making Disney Park Crowds Worse

Disney World Crowds

If one goes to Disney World, one is going to deal with crowds on some level. That fact goes without saying and should be included in experience expectations. Be that as it may, crowds at Magic Kingdom have been looking worse than usual–even with capacity reportedly still limited. And this reporter might know why.

Instead of accepting the Disney World crowds as they are, and exploring the wonders of the Disney World Crowd Calendar to see when is the best time, I see changes that could be made to make a Walt Disney World Vacation at the height of Spring Break more enjoyable. These changes have nothing to do with Theme Park Hours, Extra Magic Hours, Disney Genie, or sacrificing a day to Disney Springs. Rather they involve situations that are limiting the natural flow of Disney World crowds throughout each Disney Park.

So, let’s take a minute for some Sunday Speculation and look at three situations at Magic Kingdom and the rest of the Theme Parks that could be making Walt Disney World crowds appear more congested. They are the continued closure of the Walt Disney World Railroad, Quick Service’s Mobile Ordering Standard, and Park Hopping Restrictions.

Walt Disney World Railroad Closure

Walt Disney World Railroad

Credit: Disney

The ongoing closure of Magic Kingdom’s grand-circle-tour steam train is not news by any means. But, its closure could be a reason why Magic Kingdom thoroughfares appear more clogged than usual.

Offering stops at Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, and Storybook Circus, the open-air steam train ride is a great way for families to take a load off and combine moving from one themed land to the next with getting to experience another Disney attraction. More importantly, it is a sure-fire way to get hundreds of Guests off the streets at a time for anywhere between 10-30 minutes.

But since the construction of Tomorrowland’s new attraction, TRON: Lightcycle Power Run, began, the Railroad has been closed. Now, Guests in New Fantasyland and Tomorrowland who would typically wait in line for a train ride from Storybook Circus to Main Street, U.S.A., or Frontierland have to make the journey on foot, stroller, or motorized scooter. (Come to think of it, that extra time spent trekking through crowds could be contributing to the overall attitudes of Magic Kingdom Guests. But that’s another article.)

Tron Disney World

Credit: Tw: @bioreconstruct

According to our sources, one Walt Disney World Railroad train set with five cars can carry close to 400 people at one time, and over 1.5 million people ride the train annually. Now factor in three of those train sets operating the route at one time, along with wait times and the walk to and from the train stations, and one will discover this train is a subtly brilliant way to relieve crowded streets.

There is no official word yet when we can expect the Walt Disney World Railroad to reopen, but there is little doubt in this writer’s opinion that when Guests hear that train whistle, walking across the Park will feel somewhat relieved.

But at least we know that the WDW RR will return at some point. Unfortunately, there is no telling as of now if there will be any change ever to my second point.

The Mobile Ordering Standard

Disney World Mobile Order

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Guests Complain about Quick-Service Meals

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a favorite quick-service food stop for several Disney Fanatics, including myself. Positioned at the crossroads of Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the Hub, Guests can sit inside and listen to some tunes performed by Sonny Eclipse. But the only Guests allowed inside are the ones whose mobile order is ready.

Don’t get me wrong, Disney’s mobile ordering is convenient and keeps us out of lines during our Disney Day. But that pro is also a con. It keeps us out of another line.

In the days before the pandemic, lines for Cosmic Rays, Pinocchio’s Village Haus, and the other indoor quick-service spots around Magic Kingdom would fill the ordering area, attracting hundreds of Guests at a time. Sure, the standby lines are annoying, but at least they got more Guests off the streets. Now, those Guests who would be waiting in line inside a building are left to wander the Kingdom until it is time for their order. And what can be seen as a proactive innovation, this reporter has personally found to still be a progress staller as wait times for attractions would hold me past my order time (yes, I can update my order, but that’s not the point), and Guests still congregate in waiting groups at stands like Aloha Isle.

Unlike my first point, this is a foreseeable problem for the crowd level at EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well.

Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek sees “personalization” updates like mobile ordering as an innovative triumph so it is unlikely that Disney World Guests will have to take time out of their Disney day to wait in a standby line for quick service food and drink again.

“We’re confident that the transformative changes that we made in our Parks during the pandemic will continue to propel the business forward in the years ahead,” he said.

Park Hopping Limitations

Disney World Park Hopper

Credit: Disney

I’ve spoken on this point before, but I find it prudent to include it here again.

The Walt Disney World Resort continues to limit Guests’ Park Hopping capabilities until after 2 pm. This leaves Magic Kingdom and its sister Theme Parks unnaturally full. Essentially checking in to one’s first Park of the day with the Park Pass Reservation System is one thing. But from personal experience, I can say that Guests want to be able to Park Hop sooner and that inter-park traffic works wonders in thinning the herds of Disney Guests.

Think about it: I love Cosmic Ray’s, but why would I settle for lunch there if I could hop a monorail to EPCOT and enjoy what food and drink the International Flower and Garden Festival has to offer? Why would I take up space in the line for Jungle Cruise a Magic Kingdom when I’d rather hop a jeep on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Maybe I’d rather spend 15 minutes on the Disney Skyliner so I can ride Test Track and take in EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival instead of riding Tower of Terror and walking through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. And vice versa.

Disney Skyliner Map

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World Transportation is just slow enough and just far enough away from everything important that the time and space will keep crowds more widely distributed.

Spread Guests Out!

Crowds, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Credit: Disney Tips

From the day Magic Kingdom opened 50 years ago, the one thing Walt Disney World has been credited with is crowd control. But continued restrictions and “innovations” have clearly compromised the flow of its crowds.

As I said at the beginning, there will always be crowds. Where there is a Disney Park, there is a swarm of people. Where there is a popular Disney attraction like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain, there will be a long line. Especially if Guests choose to visit when heavy crowds are expected, Spring Break, Memorial Day Weekend, Presidents Day Weekend, Columbus Day, the Christmas Season, or at the same time as any special event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. But there is little doubt in this writer’s opinion that if Disney World can get its Railroad back on the tracks, return its mobile ordering to an optional system, and allow Guests to Park Hop as soon as they walk through the gates of their first Park–or at most after 9:00 am–then those crowds will begin to appear somewhat limited as the executives claim them to be.

At the end of the day, though, this is pure speculation based on my viewpoint of the Theme Parks, and this is not based on any official data. If any such official findings do come out, we at Disney Fanatic will be ready to update our readers on that news as it comes to light.

About T.K. Bosacki

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, TK Bosacki is a professional writer, amateur adventurer, and lifelong Disney Fanatic. His Disney Park days include Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Nomad Lounge. He believes in starting at the Canada pavilion (IYKYK), and the Monorail is superior to all Ferry Boats.

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