December 29, 2023, 4:37 PM ·

Let’s talk about the wild wait times at Disney and Universal this week.

As all experienced theme park fans know, this is the busiest week of the year at the parks in Orlando and Southern California. Holiday crowds pack Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and other local parks from rope drop to closing time. Visiting theme parks literally is my job, and I would not consider visiting a park this week – a belief that I suspect is held by many other long-time Theme Park Insider readers. But for millions of Americans and international tourists, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is the most convenient time for a dream Disney or other theme park visit. The weather in LA and Orlando typically is better now than during the summer vacation season, while school and work schedules make the other months of the year off limits. So people book their trips, even if they have to queue up and wait – a lot – once they get to the parks.It’s clearly worse in Florida than in California this week. Today, afternoon waits ranged up to around 90-100 minutes at Disneyland and up to around two hours at Universal Studios Hollywood, while waits in Orlando ranged up to two and half hours at Universal and up to three hours at Walt Disney World.Throughout the year, Disneyland is much more reliant on local annual passholders than Walt Disney World. But Disneyland has blocked all passes this week, leaving only those with the highest-priced day tickets of the year able to visit. College football bowl games also help bring more visitors to Florida, where there are five games this week, as compared with just two in California.

If you are visiting the parks this week, I hope that you are finding joy even with all the waiting. Hey, it’s all “family time” in lime, right? My one bit of advice would be to remember that everyone is trying to get their money’s worth by getting to the parks early. That means that many families won’t have the stamina to make it to closing time. Identify the rides you want to experience that have the worst mid-day wait times and plan to hop on those in the last couple of hours of the day. Dive into that Avatar Flight of Passage queue just a few minutes before the park’s 8pm close. There are no more Lightning Lane arrivals after then, so the standby queue will start moving more quickly then, too.Before then, don’t overlook easier-to-access attractions at Disney such as the Tomorrowland PeopleMover, Carousel of Progress, Tom Sawyer Island (especially if you have kids who need to run around for a bit), The American Adventure, Impressions de France, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. At Universal, don’t sleep on Universal Orlando’s Horror Makeup Show or The Bourne Stuntacular, which tends to eat up crowds. And, above all, please be kind to the cast and team members working the parks this week. They are doing their best to make your vacation as wonderful as it can be, despite what can be very tough circumstances for everyone. Please remember to thank them at every opportunity. Let’s start the new year right, with a spirit of kindness for everyone.* * *
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