Walt Disney World’s Closing Phases: When Have They Happened? What Are They? What Exactly Is Capacity?

The busiest time of the year at Walt Disney World is quickly approaching, and crowds are going to be at their highest in 2017, but what if there are too many in the park? While crowds at the parks are going to be quite large during the holiday season, Disney isn’t going to pile as many people on top of one another as they can. There are “Phase Closings” due to the number of people in each park, and if it gets to be too much, those gates are going to close.

Before jumping to conclusions, though, there is a huge difference between a “phase closing” and “capacity.” The latter is a term that is thrown around far too often when speaking of Christmas and New Year’s crowds, but it really shouldn’t be used as much as it is.

Earlier this week, Walt Disney World greatly extended the park hours for the month of November of 2017, and it is mostly due to expecting larger crowds during that time. As more people are heading into the parks, guests will need to know the different closing phases of the parks and how they need to be handled.

As the crowds continue rolling into the parks, there are different Phase Closures that are put into effect when a certain number of people enter through the gates. Here are all the different closing phases and how to follow them.

Phase A

Guests will only be allowed in if they have or fit into one of the following categories.

  • Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Guests including the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, Four Seasons, and Hotel Plaza Boulevard (Good Neighbor) hotels arriving by bus
  • Walt Disney World Annual and Premium Passholders or Premier Passports
  • Guests with Memory Maker
  • Guests with Park Hopper tickets who are re-entering or coming from another park
  • Guests with dining reservations
  • Guests going into Magic Kingdom with reservations to Pirates League, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or the Harmony Barber Shop

No one-day tickets will be accepted during this closure.

Phase B

Guests will only be allowed in if they have or fit into any of the categories from Phase A or the following.

  • Guests with FastPass+ reservations if they are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel

No one-day tickets will be accepted and neither will guests hopping over from other parks.

Phase 1

Guests without tickets, single park tickets, one-day tickets, or using Cast Member tickets will be turned away at the park toll booths.

Phase 2

The only guests allowed into the parks include those:

  • Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort including guests arriving by bus from Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels
  • Re-entering the park
  • Hopping from one of the other theme parks
  • Who have in-park dining reservations or appointments (BBB, etc.)
  • Arriving via Disney transportation – Monorail, boat, bus, Minnie Vans
  • Who are Annual Passholders

Phase 3

The only guests who will be allowed into the parks will be those:

  • Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort including guests arriving by bus from Hotel Plaza Boulevard hotels
  • Who have in-park dining reservations or appointments (BBB, etc.)
  • Who are Annual Passholders

Phase 4

At this point, the toll booths, parking lots, and park gates/entrances will be closed off to everyone. No guests will be allowed into a park at the time of a Phase 4 closing.

When a phase is put in place, it is not specifically announced by Disney, but the word gets around due to social media. Once a phase is reached, guests not having the requirements to enter the park will not be allowed in until enough people exit.

Phase A and Phase B closings are known to happen a bit more often than others at Magic Kingdom over the holidays, but the others are not that common. Touring Plans even has a record of all the Phase 1-4 closures for the Walt Disney World parks over the last 10 years.

Phase 1 closures since 2006

  • Magic Kingdom: December 25, 26, and 29 of 2014

Phase 2 closures since 2006

  • Magic Kingdom: April 8-9, 2009; December 29, 2010; December 25 and 28, 2011; December 24, 25, and 30, 2012: December 25 and 30, 2013; July 4, 2014; December 31, 2014
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: December 28, 2009; December 28, 2011
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: December 29, 2009; December 28, 2011

Phase 3 closures since 2006

  • Magic Kingdom: April 7, 2009; December 29 and 31, 2009; March 30, 2010; December 25 and 31, 2010; December 31, 2011; December 27, 28, and 31, 2012: January 2, 2013; March 25-28, 2013; July 4, 2013; December 21, 2013

Phase 4 closures since 2006

  • Magic Kingdom: April 7, 2009

Some may say that parks have been at capacity more often than what is listed above, and the main reason for that is they’ve seen signs such as the following.

walt disney world phase closures closing capacity parks crowds

These signs are a tad misleading even though they’re quite accurate. When guests see these signs, some take it to mean the park is at capacity, but it really isn’t. Disney displays these signs to kind of deter guests from entering at the time and allowing others to exit and slow it down a bit before it hits the next phase closure.

The main thing at this time of year is to not simply throw around the word “capacity” when referring to crowds at the WDW parks. Telling someone it is at capacity when it is merely at a phase closure that would allow them in could result in messing up their vacation.

Walt Disney World won’t just allow as many people into their theme parks as possible even when the bigger holiday crowds start rolling in. While the crowds are going to seem unbearable at times, the parks won’t just allow guests to keep going in and making it worse. The Phase Closings do give things a lot more perspective and let you know just how different it is being crowded or being at full capacity.

[Featured Image by Danny Cox]