Pro Bowl, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras Crowds at Disney World
By Dave Shute
DISNEY WORLD CROWDS AND THE PRO BOWL
In 2017 for the first time Orlando will be hosting the NFL’s Pro Bowl, on January 29. The game itself will be in downtown Orlando’s “Camping World” Stadium, which some of you may remember as the Citrus Bowl, but Disney World–especially, but not only the ESPN Wide World of Sports area–will be heavily involved.
According to NFL.com,
“Practices will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort simultaneously with youth football events and a fan fest…There will be a Pro Bowl-themed 5K run, a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom and Pro Bowl-themed elements throughout Disney Springs, Disney’s newest entertainment and dining destination.”
This is a new thing, so there is no track record to base crowd predictions on. Wide World of Sports–and the roads near it–will be mobbed during the fan events the days before the game, as will also, I’d guess, the Magic Kingdom on the as-yet unannounced day of the parade there.
Predicting resulting overall Disney World crowd levels the weeks before and after the game is a little harder.
- First, the Pro Bowl itself is not much of a destination event. The announced figure of “at least” $30 million economic impact on the Orlando area implies at the low end just 10,000 to 20,000 incremental people in Orlando from the Pro Bowl (based on rules of thumb about the value of an out of town visitor I learned at one of my clients), which is nothing when spread across all of Orlando’s attractions.
- However, the Pro Bowl has never been held in collaboration with Disney World and ESPN before, so it and more importantly its fan fest might end up being a real draw to people from out of town.
- It may especially be a draw for folks within easy driving distance–the Orlando area itself, of course, and Jacksonville and Tampa–to combine a day or two at the fan fest and at the theme parks. (The “easy drive” might even include the arc from Mobile through Atlanta to Charleston, and all of South Florida as well.)
We won’t really know until after it happens, but we can say for sure that the Disney World hotels will likely be booked solid the week before and perhaps a few days after the game, and that the parks will likely be somewhat more crowded than I’d predicted before the Pro Bowl was announced.
My original crowd forecasts for the week leading up to and the week after the Pro Bowl weekends were both 1/lowest crowds. Because the only number I have is the quite low $30 million in incremental economic impact, I’m not raising these a lot. In my 2017 Disney World crowd calendar, I am now forecasting the week before the game as 4/low+ crowds, and the week after as 2/lower crowds.
DISNEY WORLD PRESIDENTS DAY CROWDS
Based on the comments I get on this site, year after year one of the things that most surprises people is how crowded the week of Presidents Day is at Walt Disney World.
Most schools just have one day off–the Monday holiday.
However, even so, lots of other school kids have a four or five day weekend (Thursday or Friday to Monday, or Saturday to Tuesday or Wednesday).
Even more have the whole week that includes Presidents Day off. Most of the latter are from the Northeast, and really, really need a break from the snow and cold…and thus the massive crowds that week at Disney World!
See the left side of chart, which shows the proportion of the 15.4 million kids in my 2016-2017 school year calendar database with more than a three day weekend over President’s Day:
In 2016 Presidents Day is February 20th, shown in red.
Breaks begin the Thursday before, and continue at high levels through the rest of the week.
In my 2017 crowd calendar I have the week that includes Presidents Day rated as 10/higher crowds. Expect the highest crowds Friday through Tuesday, and high crowds the rest of the week.
MARDI GRAS CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
Mardi Gras, February 28 in 2017 and in red on the right side of the chart, is the opposite. My commentors worried about it tend to come from the very few southeastern areas that have a multi-day holiday around it. But hardly anyone else does.
So Mardi Gras has little effect on February crowds unless it falls (as it did in 2015) the day after Presidents Day, in which case it makes a lousy week even more horrible.
In my 2017 crowd calendar I have the week that includes Mardi Gras rated as 4/low+ minus. This rating combines moderate crowds at the beginning of this week from leftover Presidents Day folk, a runDisney event, and Mardi Gras itself, with quite low crowds later in the week.
(For how these charts are built, see this.)