As children head back to school (in person in many cases this year!) it’s common for the swell of parkgoers at major theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood to die down a bit. However, this year, there may be other contributing factors to why both California-based theme parks are seeing low lines this time of year. Popular rides at both theme parks were looked at, and as it turns out there’s only one major ride that’s seen an increase in wait times since 2019.
Typically, you would expect lengthy wait times on certain popular rides--old stalwarts like Space Mountain still command a long queue, as do recently built rides like Disneyland’s recent addition Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. However, one guest recently revealed to the LA Times that they went to the park on a recent weekday and the wait was only 20 minutes for the new Spidey ride. The outlet spoke with an outside firm, who confirmed that wait times have dropped overall in both California theme parks--and given this has happened over time, it’s not just the back-to-school thing that’s the cause.
In fact, the outside firm (Touring Plans) looked at 10 rides at each of the California parks and confirmed wait times on all 10 rides had dropped since 2019. This actually excludes newer rides like Web Slingers due to those rides only having been open for a period of months and not years, but it does include other popular rides such as Disneyland and California Adventure’s Guardians Breakout!, Radiator Springs Racers, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, Soarin’, Peter Pan’s Flight and more.
At Universal, 10 popular rides including The Simpsons Ride, Jurassic World -- The Ride, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and more have all seen wait times decrease since 2019. While the wait times at Disneyland have dropped five minutes on average, at Universal Studios Hollywood the change is even starker, with wait times dropping 22 minutes on average. The report also notes that for some rides, the wait time has dropped to an even higher degree, with the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland and Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Hollywood seeing half the normal wait times.
There is one exception to this “wait times have dropped” rule. Jungle Cruise at Disneyland has seen its wait times grow. The article doesn’t mention why, but I’d have to assume this is due to two factors. The ride was recently refurbished to include a new storyline after complaints about some depictions on the ride were noted as inappropriate. Ride changes usually pique the interest of fans. Secondly, Disney also put out Jungle Cruise the movie starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, which I assume sparked guests to check out the ride more during the summer months as well. So its wait time has more than doubled since 2019, but overall across both popular theme parks other wait times are down.
A combination of factors seems as if they could be the cause. Rides and parks were at limited capacity for a time, particularly in 2020 after theme parks reopened following a period of shutdown. For a time both Disney and Universal parks had reservation systems in place; though Universal Hollywood is no longer requiring those, Disneyland kept them. Hesitancy over visiting a theme park with Covid still a worry may also have had an impact on peoples’ willingness to visit.
Universal Studios and Disneyland both have separate strategies for how the parks will be operating moving forward. For example, Disneyland has made changes to the way its Annual Passes and Fastpasses are available/work. However, in common they both have had safety protocols and capacity restrictions in place in California. We'll have to wait and see what happens when parks get back to normal... or at least get back to whatever the new normal ends up being. In the meantime, we'll keep you updated ever step of the way.