I spent many a childhood vacation driving back and forth to Florida. My family loved to vacation here. We went to various beach communities around the state, and our trips would often involve a day or two spent at Walt Disney World.
So the whole family was excited when, in 1984, one of my aunts moved to Florida. It was immediately decided that the extended family would spend Christmas there. Not only that, but we were all going to Walt Disney World. On the day after Christmas. Because, surely no one is on vacation at Walt Disney World at Christmastime.
On Dec. 26, the whole extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, probably 18-20 of us – loaded up in a motor home for the 1-hour drive to Walt Disney World. It was smooth sailing for the first 45 minutes, and then we hit the traffic. It took an extra hour to get into the parking lot, and the lot closed practically right behind us.
I still remember the nervous voices of my parents and the other adults in the car, quietly discussing the crowd levels.When we got up to the Ticket and Transportation Center, there were people everywhere. Into the Magic Kingdom we went, and it was packed, as well. I only remember riding one ride that Dec. 26 – It’s a Small World. I also remember waiting at least an hour in a 2-hour line for Dumbo before being forced to leave the line because some younger cousins had to use the bathroom.
Our expectations of an empty park and lots of rides and shows were not met, and the whole day was way less than magical.
I have now lived in Florida myself for 17 years. And almost every January or February, I run into someone, new to Florida, who decided that Walt Disney World would be empty around Christmas and it would be the perfect time to take the family. And their tale always ends up like mine. I listen, and then explain that there are certain times of year that we locals – and that includes them now – don’t go the parks. Christmas is tops on that list.
What I know now is that many families have made a trip to Walt Disney World their Christmas tradition. And with good reason, because there are a lot of Christmas sights to see at Disney World. But those folks go in with their eyes open to the crowds.
So, trust me, Walt Disney World is crowded at Christmas. While Disney doesn’t release attendance figures, the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day are widely believed to be the highest attended times in the Disney theme parks every year.