Home » 3 Important Things to Remember When Disney Parks Hit Capacity-Level Crowds

    3 Important Things to Remember When Disney Parks Hit Capacity-Level Crowds

    Christmas packed

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and it’s also an incredibly popular time to visit Walt Disney World. Thousands and thousands of people will pass through the parks’ gates this holiday season, and it’s likely that the Magic Kingdom, especially, won’t be able to hold them all. So how do Disney officials decide which guests to let in, and how can you increase your likelihood of being one of them? Here are three things you need to know about Walt Disney World park closures:

    1. How packed the parks can get 

    Christmas packed

    When most people think of going “home for the holidays,” they usually imagine heading to their relatives’ houses and being surrounded by family, friends and good cheer. But as Disney fans know, “home” can also mean a castle with mice running around it too, and as soon as Halloween is over, Disney starts enticing people back by rolling out the festive wintry décor. Nearly every inch of the resort is decked out, and even though snow is super rare in sunny Florida, somehow flakes manage to fall (magically) on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. And at the end of Main Street U.S.A., visitors see Castle Dream Lights that transform Cinderella’s home into a beautiful ice palace.

    Castle Dream Lights

    Some of the busiest days of the year at Walt Disney World are between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and all four of its parks – along with Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon – have had to turn away visitors at some point in the past because they’ve been at capacity. It’s been said that the Magic Kingdom can hold more than 100,000 guests, but its popularity makes it the most likely park to close because of crowds and it usually does so about six times a year. Guests are likely to be turned away there two to four days during Christmas week. But Disney doesn’t just lock the gates for all when the parks fill up. Instead, officials gradually restrict guests by implementing different closure phases.

    2. What closure phases mean

    Magic Kingdom

    There are four types of closure phases that Disney uses on super busy days. During a Phase 1 closure, people without tickets, those with only one-day single-park tickets and people using cast member passes are turned away at the automobile toll plazas. People who are allowed to enter include those who have multi-day or multi-park tickets, guests staying at Disney resorts, annual passholders, people who are re-entering the park that day, people who are park-hopping, guests who have reservations or appointments in the park and people arriving via Disney transportation. Last year, Disney implemented a Phase 1 Closure at the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 25, 26 and 29.

    A Phase 2 closure means more restrictions. During this phase, Disney only allows the following people to come through the turnstiles and into the parking lots: those who are staying at a Disney resort, annual passholders, guests who are re-entering, park-hoppers, people who have reservations or appointments in the park and people who get there by using Disney transportation. In 2014, Disney put a Phase 2 closure in place on Dec. 31 at the Magic Kingdom.

    When Disney puts a Phase 3 Closure in place, that means that only people staying at a Disney resort, annual passholders and people who have in-park appointments and reservations can enter. A Phase 3 closure was also put in place at the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 31, 2013 (if you haven’t caught on yet, New Year’s Eve is not an ideal day to isit the park!)

    Finally, a Phase 4 Closure means that the park and its parking lot are closed to all guests who arrive. There has only been one Phase 4 Closure in the past five years, and that occurred on April 7, 2009, at the Magic Kingdom.

    3. How to get in during a closure

    New Year's Eve

    So how can a guest who’s set on visiting the Magic Kingdom on, say, New Year’s Eve make sure they make it into the park? Three words are helpful to keep in mind: Show up early. That may mean spending hours in the park, but if a visitor wants to make sure they get to stare at the castle when the clock strikes midnight, that’s the sacrifice they have to make (because plenty of other people have the same goal). Another piece of advice that’s helpful is to make a touring plan. With MyMagic+, guests can select their FastPasses and make restaurant reservations far in advance, and that option is a must during busy times.

    Christmas Grand Floridian

    It’s also important to stay flexible. Whether you’re turned away from the gates or not, it might not be worth losing your sanity by dealing with wall-to-wall people, long wait times and inevitable breakdowns (from adults as well as kids). Since all of Disney’s resorts are also lavishly decorated, why not spend a day circling the monorail hotels? You could also spend time at Disney Springs doing your last-minute shopping (yes, even at Disney’s Days of Christmas Shop) or hang out at a pool (an activity that would likely make your snowbound relatives very jealous). At Walt Disney World during the holidays, the magic isn’t only limited to the Magic Kingdom! And with a plan, and flexibility, you can make sure it’s a wonderful time wherever you are.

    Have you ever visited Walt Disney World duing a phased closure? Share your stories below!