So just how busy is it at the Orlando theme parks these days?
I've been watching the wait times on the official park apps from my home in Southern California, while Theme Park Insider readers have been keeping me posted with photos and reports from inside the park. And it seems that weekday attendance at Disney's theme parks seems to be increasing, perhaps as Disney ups the capacity limits in its parks.
Check out the line for Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios yesterday afternoon. It's all the way out of Toy Story Land.
Granted, you can't compare line lengths to pre-Covid periods, as Disney is now spacing its queue to allow for safe social distancing. But our reader reported a 70-minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash, plus another 70 minutes for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and a 90-minute wait for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.
Those aren't the easy-breezy waits that enticed some Disney fans to strap on their masks and get out to the parks this summer. Disney leaders always said that the resort's return would be a phased reopening, with the parks increasing the entrance capacity limits over time. Dates that once appeared yellow on the resort's advance reservation availability calendar now sometimes reappear as green.
Florida's governor has given the state's theme parks a green light to raise their capacities, and crowds on weekends — especially at Universal Orlando, which is running an aggressive Florida resident discount — have reminded some fans of life before March.
But now it appears that the weekday crowd levels are beginning to creep upward as well. Which should be encouraging to the parks' accountants, as September typically sees the beginning of a downward trend in daily park attendance due to the return of so many kids to school.
This summer's attendance was well off a typical summer's crowd level. But if this fall recovers to attract a higher percentage of normal guest load than the late summer months did, that could be a welcome financial success for the parks.
But would it be good for the community? Our readers have reported that physical distancing outside the queues and attractions is getting tougher to maintain as the crowd levels grow.
Local officials and park leaders have been crowing that there's not been any confirmed outbreaks of Covid-19 in the parks. But low crowd levels and easy physical distancing may have been contributing factors to limiting exposure in the parks. Take those away, and does the risk to visitors increase?
Disney continues to demand that guests wear masks while visiting and it has installed plastic barriers throughout its parks to help stop the spread of the virus. So substantial health and safety procedures remain in place. But while those serve to help convince potential visitors that it is safe to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, short wait times also helped make that case after the parks reopened in July.
Disney obviously wants attendance at the Walt Disney World theme parks to increase. But will there come a point where Disney becomes a victim of its success and larger crowds start dissuading other potential guests from visiting?
That never really happened before Covid shut down the world. But the Sars-CoV-2 virus is an additional variable that was not in play back when Disney's theme parks filled to the brim with tourists on a daily basis.
If you live in or have visited the Orlando area, what are you seeing in the parks? For everyone else, are crowd levels affecting your decision whether to visit the Florida theme parks anytime soon?
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