By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Pro Bowl, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras Crowds at Disney World

By Dave Shute


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,

“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.


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:

Disney World Crowds February 2017 from

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, 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.)

The Best Reviewed Disney World Guide Book--EVER!!

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!



1 LR { 07.01.16 at 4:33 pm }

I’ve noticed that crowds seem to be down year over year. I’m thinking that with the severe economic downturn in South America, especially Brazil, that winter tour group attendance will be even lower. What I’m hoping it’s that whatever effect the probowl has, it will only be to bring crowds to where they have been in 2015 or 2014, and not too much higher. Of course, I’ll be there last week in jan/first in Feb so I’m making things up to suit myself

2 Dave { 07.03.16 at 8:35 am }

LR, there’s been just one quarter of crowds down year over year, so I would hold my optimism for a bit. That said, I don;t see SA coming out of its funk soon, and that should reduce the quantity of visitors from there in January…

3 Lara { 07.05.16 at 12:52 pm }

About Mardi Gras, we went in the week befoe Valentines Day and it was like the whole state of New Orleans came up for a visit. I spoke with some of these visitors and they said that they get 4 days off for this holiday and leave to escape the crowds in New Orleans. Plus there was a Cheer competition that week.

4 Dave { 07.06.16 at 2:03 pm }

Lara, visitors from Louisiana make up less than 3% of WDW visitors. So they just don’t make a difference, which is why no one that measures crowds has ever been able to show a material uptick from Mardi Gras. Cheer competitions happen all the time, with the same results.

5 Emily { 07.27.16 at 10:47 pm }

Hi Dave- First of all, I love your site. I have used it to plan all of our family Disney vacations – three and counting!
For our upcoming trip, we booked January 25-29, mainly because of the low crowds. Like everyone else, I am now hearing about the Pro Bowl and freaking out. Changing our dates would be very difficult to do.
I know there’s really no way to know beforehand, but how do you think the pro bowl crowds will compare to marathon crowds? We’ve been during the marathon before and thought it was fine.
How bad do you think it will be?

6 Dave { 07.28.16 at 8:14 am }

Emily, I suspect more of an impact than the marathon, which has little impact on the parks, but rather mostly affects the roads.

7 Rae Gene Greenough { 08.01.16 at 7:03 pm }

I know this seems far away, but I am planning a 21st birthday party in February 2018. There will be 2, over 21 adults and 4, 20-21 year olds. What do you think is the best place to stay. I think we will go the last week of February and stay a Sunday-Saturday.

8 Dave { 08.02.16 at 8:51 am }

Rae, are you looking to fit everyone into one space? And budget matters–4 person rooms range from around $125 to over $800/night

9 Old Key Jeff { 10.26.16 at 6:44 am }

Hello Dave,

We will be at WDW 1/26-1/30 for a quick getaway from the cold northeast. Is the date for the pro bowl parade at MK confirmed yet? We want to avoid it.

Old Key Jeff :-

10 Dave { 10.26.16 at 9:22 am }

Hey Jeff, no word yet.

11 Carolyn { 11.03.16 at 10:42 am }

Hi Dave, love your site and have sent many others to it! We have booked at PO Riverside during Pro Bowl (did not know about it at time of booking). The issue is getting around at that time. Considering changing to a monorail hotel-what is your opinion?

12 Dave { 11.07.16 at 12:29 pm }

Carolyn, the Pro Bowl traffic should be centered on Victory Way and Osceola Parkway, and secondarily on Buena Vista. From Riverside, if driving, follow the signs to the theme parks and you’ll avoid all these except perhaps a bit of Buena Vista for HS.

As Kelly noted, you won’t be any better off at a monorail resort.

13 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 11.04.16 at 5:39 pm }

Hi Carolyn – Remember that a monorail resort is only going to get you to MK. You’ll need to change to the Epcot Monorail, or take a bus to each of the other parks. If you think about changing, you might want to look at some of the Epcot resorts. (Usually lower prices than monorail resorts). Plus you can take the boat (or walk) to Epcot or Hollywood Studios. It really depends where you’ll spend most of your time.

14 Carrie { 01.05.17 at 11:48 pm }

Hi Dave,
I will be visiting the Disney parks 1/29 through 2/2, hoping not to be affected by the Pro Bowl. I am planning on MK on 1/31 but just saw there is Early Morning Magic that day. Will that raise the crowd level? Thank you.

15 Dave { 01.06.17 at 8:43 am }

Carrie, the high cost and small number of rides means few attend these, so they have no impact on crowds.

16 Jason { 01.25.17 at 12:49 am }

Hi Dave my wife and I planned to take our 3 & 6 yr old daughters to Disney well over a yr ago and our trip falls Jan 25th- Feb 2nd. Pro bowl was not on our radar nor the agents whom helped us plan this. My question to you is with our girls being young should we go about our vacation as planned and hope for reasonable crowds or should we devise new plans based on avoiding pro bowl events/crowds? Any advice would be much appreciated as this is our family’s first trip to the park (for all of us). Thanks!

17 Dave { 01.25.17 at 8:04 am }

Jason, you’ll want to avoid Main Street in MK mid-afternoon Friday (the pro bowl parade is at 2.30p) but otherwise I think you will be fine.

18 Alli { 09.28.17 at 1:30 pm }

I have seen elsewhere that the first Sat and Sun of Feb might be more crowded because of a dance competition? Can you give me your thoughts on this? Thanks so much! Appreciate all of your information on your site.

19 Dave { 09.28.17 at 2:42 pm }

Alli, this is a common myth. The pragmatics are that on average day there’s 150,000 people in the four Disney parks. An extra 10,000 (or 20,000) people, spread across a. their actual competition-related activities, b. the four parks, c. the minor parks d. off-days at their hotels and e. Universal, Sea World and Legoland etc., just simply don’t make much difference.

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2024 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.