The Fourth of July at Walt Disney World
one of the most crowded days at the resort
Friday, June 18, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
First-time visitors to Walt Disney World are
sometimes overwhelmed with the task of planning their first adventure to Orlando
and developing an itinerary or touring plan for their trip. Anxiety may also come
into play for Walt Disney World veterans visiting Orlando for the first time during
the Fourth of July holiday.
In this session, let's look at the possibilities
for a Fourth of July visit to Walt Disney World. The options before us are based
on my own experience as well as others who have had first hand knowledge as to
what you can expect on this national holiday in the happiest place on earth.
Before leaving home, determine what your dining plans would be for
the Fourth of July. The Walt Disney World theme parks experience some of the highest
crowd levels this time of year, and you need to be as proactive as possible to
deal with the number of people you will be competing with for both attractions
Even before focusing on places to eat, determine what and
how many meals will be the order for each particular day. Some guests prefer two
meals during the day surrounded by small snacky meals. Others prefer the basic
breakfast, lunch, and dinner format. You also need to be flexible with your dining
schedule. Sometimes it's necessary to adjust according to the availability of
the restaurant. Priority seating is essential for the Fourth of July so once decisions
are made, the next step is to make priority seating arrangements as early and
as far in advance of that day as possible.
The Early Bird Rule
heard it before, and the Fourth of July is no exception. Everyone needs to be
especially early on the morning of the Fourth of July, as the crowds build fast.
who plan well should be heading out for breakfast and getting early seating for
this most important meal. On the Fourth of July, it's easier to get Priority Seating
for an early breakfast than for any other meal.
There are so many options
for breakfast, but on this day, my suggestion is to head for Trail's End at Fort
Wilderness for a number of reasons.
Trail's End offers an early start to
the day. We have always learned that an early start to a visit to any Walt Disney
World theme park offers the best opportunity to get in favorite attractions before
the crowds arrive. With expected high numbers the Fourth of July especially dictates
a jump-start as early as possible. Try to get the earliest seating possible for
breakfast.Breakfast at Trail's End is one of the best deals on the entire
Walt Disney World resort. The last time I checked, this breakfast was about $10
per adult and $6 for children. A breakfast buffet that offers many choices for
breakfast at a good price certainly meets most guests' needs.
members at Trail's End are some of the friendliest you will encounter, and they
always seem to know what's going on in the World. While enjoying breakfast, strike
up a conversation with your server and ask about any special events occurring
this day, especially in the Magic Kingdom.Finally, it is the Fourth of July,
so why not start celebrating the holiday early? After breakfast, you can walk
outside and see the annual Fort Wilderness Fourth of July float contest. Every
year guests decorate their electronic carts in patriotic displays in hopes of
winning the coveted first place blue ribbon. There's plenty of red, white, and
blue at Fort Wilderness on this day. Guests are also treated to a special ceremony
outside Pioneer Hall that includes some patriotic songs and a word or two from
Uncle Sam himself.
Fort Wilderness guests ready for Annual Fourth of July celebration. Photo by Mike
A trip to Fort Wilderness and Trail's End will get your Fourth of
July off to a great start.
Morning to Mid-Afternoon: Which Park?
course once breakfast is done, the next question is where to spend the rest of
the morning and part of the afternoon. Which of the four parks is best to visit
on this national holiday? Remember that a factor to consider is where to spend
the Fourth of July evening. So let's take a look at the options:
The Magic Kingdom is packed on the Fourth of July. Guests can expect
to encounter some of the longest lines of the year for this theme park. It is
a very popular park for this day.
This also means that the Fastpass distribution
times will be quite different than normal. For instance, you could possibly go
to the Splash Mountain Fastpass distribution station at 11 A.M. and find that
their Fastpass window may be sometime around 3 P.M. With that in mind you can
also expect that the FP databases for many of the attractions may be exhausted
earlier than normal.
Let's also not forget that it's a small world
in Fantasyland is closed until early 2005. This attraction handles high volume,
which means that without it, that high volume must be absorbed by other attractions.
Thus Fantasyland attractions will no doubt have extremely long lines on this Fourth
The Magic Kingdom and the Fourth of July spells CROWD. Photo by Mike Scopa.
it's the Fourth of July, if you are in the Magic Kingdom, you may want to think
about visiting some attractions that may not experience some long lines. What
better place to visit than the Hall of Presidents on the Fourth of July? We could
approach this day with patriotism in mind and head straight for the Hall of Presidents,
one attraction that may not be as overcrowded as others. Also, why not try the
Liberty Square Riverboat?
However, any attraction touring in the Magic Kingdom
on this day will present a special challenge and you should especially take note
of Fastpass distribution times.
The Magic Kingdom is a popular Fourth of
July destination because it is absolutely draped in red, white and blue. The Town
Square will have patriotic bunting, and Main Street, U.S.A. may be lined with
red, white, and blue balloons. You might also expect to see a few more U.S. flags
than normal on this day.
Fourth of July patriotic bunting decorates the Magic Kingdom’s Town Square Train
Station. Photo by Mike Scopa.
It's important check in at City Hall regarding
any special events planned for this day, as well as the times for these events.
You never know if there may be something special planned for Main Street.
a good chance of some Fourth of July celebration on Main Street. In 2003, Main
Street witnessed a special celebration in honor of the Armed Services.
Main Street USA celebrates last year's Fourth of July with a special tribute to
the armed forces. Photo by Mike Scopa.
If there is a special event to take
place plan on being in your spot to watch the celebration at least
one hour before the scheduled start.
It is a real treat to be in the Magic
Kingdom on the Fourth of July to see the patriotic fanfare that takes place on
Main Street, USA.
If the larger-than-normal crowds at the
Magic Kingdom is a concern, then Epcot might be the better park to visit on the
Fourth of July. Epcot may not see as large of a jump in guest attendance during
the day as the Magic Kingdom probably because the Magic Kingdom has that Americana
mode. Guests may find attraction touring much easier in Epcot than the Magic Kingdom.
planning on visiting Epcot in the early morning may want to consider securing
a priority seating at the Storybook Princess Breakfast at the Norway pavilion.
After breakfast, you can tour World Showcase and eventually work your way back
to Future World and see much of the park by 2 or 3 p.m. This will allow you plenty
of time to go to another park if you were not planning on spending the evening
One special note regarding Epcot on the Fourth of July: A rare
combination performance by both the American Vibe Singers and the Voices of Liberty.
These two vocal groups, usually seen in the American Adventure rotunda, perform
at the America Gardens pavilion right around the Fourth of July holiday. Fans
of either group will find the combined voices especially thrilling as they perform
a series of songs that will raise anyone's patriotic spirits.
Studios also sees a slight increase in crowds but again not as much as the Magic
Kingdom. MGM Studios is another option for those who want to enjoy a somewhat
normal day of attraction touring. The crowds will grow, however, as night approaches.
in mind that with this theme park, attractions and shows start a little later
in the morning than the other theme parks.
The Stars and Motor Cars Parade
may have a special patriotic flare on the Fourth of July with some flag-waving
Disney's Animal Kingdom
This theme park is probably
the last theme park on most lists for a Fourth of July visit. For those who really
want to do some serious touring this day, the morning is an ideal time to do just
Those who elect to visit this theme park should plan on an early start,
schedule a Priority Seating at Donald's Breakfastsaurus, and plan to leave around
2 p.m. for the park of their choice for evening festivities.
As the day moves into mid-afternoon, you are faced with an important
decision. As the day approaches mid- to late-afternoon, you should decide in which
park you prefer to spend your Fourth of July evening. It's no easy decision because
there are many options.The Magic Kingdom becomes so crowded on the Fourth
of July that the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza has turned cars away as early as 4 in
the afternoon. If you wish to spend the evening at the Magic Kingdom, you may
need to be in the park no later than 3:00 p.m. The festivities for the Fourth
of July may be a special presentation of Wishes! fireworks show, with a finale
that many of the locals come to see, which adds to the number of guests for this
day. MGM Studios, and not Epcot, is very much the second choice of theme
parks for the evening of the Fourth of July. This is due to a special performance
of Sorcery In the Sky fireworks shown that evening. This rare showing draws
many guests to the park. Hollywood Blvd. in front of The Great Movie Ride attraction,
will have wall-to-wall people. A patriotic Tag or a few minutes more
of fireworks with patriotic music flaring usually follow Sorcery, Beware
that the crowd in MGM for this evening will most likely be the most crowded night
all year at MGM. The other reason for the popularity of this park is that you
not only get to see Sorcery but also can finish off the evening with Fantasmic.
Although Epcot is a large theme park and can accommodate
many guests, the crush of the crowd is far less on the Fourth of July evening
than it is in the Magic Kingdom or MGM. For that reason it is seen as being the
least crowded of the theme parks for that night. The Illuminations fireworks
will offer a bit extra; a patriotic tag with music for the enjoyment of everyone.
Again, you can assume that Epcot will be more crowded than usual but probably
not as much of a crush as the other two parks. If you are going to Epcot this
evening, find your Illuminations viewing spot along the world Showcase Lagoon
at least 90 minutes before the scheduled start.
Fireworks from MGM's Sorcery In the Sky produce a Silhouette of MGM palm trees.
Photo by Mike Scopa.
How to Decide
best way to plan out your Walt Disney World Fourth of July itinerary is to work
backwards. Decide where you will spend your evening and work backwards from there.
For many guests, the evening festivities are the most important, so it's best
to determine where you will spend your evening and figure out the best logistics
for the day.
Break the day up into three parts: early morning, mid-morning
to mid-afternoon, and evening.
Plans should be in place well before that
day arrives, and don't forget that those plans should include when and where you
Finally, give yourself plenty of time on this day, as high-level
crowds will add time.
So have you ever thought about solo
touring in Walt Disney World? Is it for you? What is different about being alone
in Walt Disney World? Next time I'll share some of my experiences on a recent
solo trip to Walt Disney World.
Angels: Part III, I mentioned that Cinderella's Round Table was
the only Priority Seating that required a credit card. Such information is constantly
changing; the Storybook Princess Breakfast in Norway and the Fantasmic Dinner
Package, when booked far in advance, also require a credit card. As always, it
is best to call the Walt Disney World resort to get validation on any of these
and other Priority Seating requirements.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.
Priority Seating request at a Walt Disney World eatery differs somewhat from a
typical restaurant reservation. In a normal reservation, the establishment puts
a table on hold for you, not allowing anyone else to dine at that table until
you show up.
In a Priority Seating system,
restaurants do not hold tables aside for anyone. Instead, your Priority Seating
assignment gets you to the head of the line when you show up. In that sense, Priority
Seating (also referred to simply as a PS) is very similar to a Fastpass
attraction ticket that allows you to bypass the stand-by line.
the host must still wait for a table to clear in order to seat you, it is best
to show up at least 15 minutes before your designated Priority Seating time (especially
if you are part of a large group, and during busy season).
Seating requests can be hard to come by for busy seasons, including most major
holidays such as the Fourth of July. Beware that restaurants have differing lead
times for when they start accepting PS requests; some as early as a year in advance.
make your Priority Seating requests, phone (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.
Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.
Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.
You can contact Mike here.
Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:
Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)
Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)
Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, The Trip Planner for more travel planning information.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.