For over 20 years, there’s been a busy season in December during which some particularly large groups visited Disney World and added to the holiday crowds. All of that is changing in 2021, and 2022 might look quite different in Disney World. Let’s get into it!
What busy season?
So exactly what busy season are we talking about? The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships. From 1997 to 2020, this event would take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in early to mid-December, an otherwise quiet time of year in Disney World, bringing approximately 10,000 young athletes to compete.
This event was historically well attended, with large groups of young athletes traveling for the event. For example, in 2019 Pop Warner ran from December 7 to December 14 and brought athletes from over 64 national football teams and 400 cheer squads. That’s a LOT of cheerleaders.
When these young athletes would congregate at Disney World for these competition events, families would also make the journey to cheer on their young ones and to make a family vacation out of the event. When combined with the holiday crowds, this busy season was known for making Disney World even more crowded than usual.
What did it look like?
If you happened to visit during this busy time, you’d likely encounter LOTS of extra crowds filled with big groups. Many of the athletes stayed at Value Resort hotels like Pop Century, Art of Animation, or All-Star Movies, Music, and Sports, which also meant busier resorts and less room availability. This would especially impact people with smaller hotel budgets.
In the parks, it wasn’t unusual to have a large group of cheerleaders or football players in front of you in line, and big groups crowding the walkways. Just lookout for a stylish big group sporting bows and you’ll know they’re cheerleaders!
Large groups meant big crowds and longer ride queues, and sometimes one of the parks would close early for a private, after-hours event. It’s always a good idea to check Disney World park hours before visiting!
There was also typically an increase in some transportation wait times with the big groups of student-athletes. It was common to have to wait longer for open spots on buses, the Monorail, or the Skyliner.
Basically, you could expect to see large groups taking up a lot of Disney World space.
How will this affect 2022?
In January 2021, Pop Warner announced that they’re switching to partner with Universal Orlando Resort and Florida Citrus Sports, so moving forward this busy season will no longer be a major part of Disney World! Of course, these athletes could also visit Disney World, but they’ll be much closer to Universal Orlando.
This could mean that ride queues might stay relatively reasonable and transportation might not be as crowded. We’ll take a more low-key holiday season in Disney World any day.
You might also have an easier time getting a Value Resort hotel reservation in December, and it will likely be a bit less crowded than in past years. It also wasn’t uncommon for these teams to have meetings, run-throughs, or rehearsals in the large open spaces between buildings. So if your family traditionally stays at All-Star Sport, you won’t get those free cheerleading shows as often.
Still, this might also encourage guests who would otherwise avoid this time to visit, so it’s possible that things might just even out! Still, it might be worth it to take advantage of the end of this busy Disney World season. Keep reading DFB for more Disney World planning news!
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Have you ever visited Disney World during this season? Tell us in the comments!