Orlando’s Theme Parks Have a Healthy But Not Record Holiday Season

Jan 01, 2014 7:00 am

Skift Take

This holiday season — with big days two Wednesdays in a row — was good for two weeks of holiday travel across the U.S.

— Jason Clampet

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Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has turned some guests away at times, and SeaWorld Orlando recorded the second-best day in its history during the annual holiday crunch at Central Florida theme parks.

Representatives of Disney, SeaWorld and a href=””>Universal Orlando this week all declined to disclose precise attendance figures for the rush, which typically peaks during the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. But anecdotal evidence suggested healthy crowds, though not necessarily record-breaking numbers.

A spokesman for SeaWorld Orlando described this year’s holiday crowds as comparable to last year’s, though the marine park said the 2012 holiday season was one of its best ever. He said Monday was the second-best day ever for SeaWorld, while its limited-admission sister park, Discovery Cove, had a record month in December.

“We’ve been thrilled to host near-record numbers of visitors and fans this week, each of whom leaves our park more enriched by our unique experiences and entertainment,” SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said. “So far, holiday attendance has exceeded our high expectations.”

Universal Orlando had to temporarily close the gates to its Islands of Adventure theme park several times during the 2011 and 2012 holiday seasons as waves of travelers descended on its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It has not done so this season, however, according to a company spokesman.

But that may be partly because the resort’s biggest new attractions — Transformers The Ride: 3D and Springfield, the “Simpsons”-themed retail area — are next door in its Universal Studios Florida park.

“Our entire destination is busy — and we are seeing tremendous excitement around our new Transformers The Ride: 3D attraction and for the Transformer character meet-and-greets we do with guests,” Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World declined to say how crowds at the region’s biggest theme-park resort compared with 2012′s. Disney’s busiest park, the Magic Kingdom, has partly closed at least three times during the past week, according to the website, restricting access primarily to guests staying in Disney-owned hotels or annual-pass holders.

“As you can imagine, the holidays are always a popular time to visit a Disney theme park,” Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda said.

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