While most of us are just regular people who like to enjoy a nice time at Disney World to relax and unwind, there is another group of super-human athletes that come to Disney to COMPETE!
We’re talking about football players and cheer squads (along with their entourages!) which can sometimes flood Disney World Resort with THOUSANDS of peppy peeps!
If you’re not a cheerleader or proud cheer parent, you probably don’t have a clue when these major sporting events are held, or how they could impact your trip to Disney World! That’s why we want to give you a quick rundown on when these cheerleading championships typically take place — and what you can expect if your vacation dates coincide with Disney World’s Football and Cheer Season!
Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships
While several cheer competitions are held from January to May at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, one of the biggest youth sporting events actually takes place in December.
Last year, Pop Warner ran from December 7 to December 14 and brought athletes from over 64 national football teams and 400 cheer squads to Orlando to compete. Trust us when we say things can get a little hectic if Pop Warner catches you off guard! Disney even makes a special line of Pop Warner merch for the participants!
April – May
Numerous Cheer Championships
The next batch of major cheer tourneys crops up in springtime with the USASF Cheerleading Worlds happening in late April as well as the International Cheerleading Union World Championships (ICU).
The Summit, which is the last All-Star competition of the season, normally takes place in early May along with the D2 Summit typically held right after. All of these championships bring in lots of kids and spectators, so let’s explore how this might affect your vacation as a non-participant!
Crowd Levels at the Disney World Theme Parks During Cheer Events
At the Beginning of the Competition
So, there’s good news and bad news. Here’s the good news first: these highly-trained athletes are here mainly for one thing and one thing only — to compete. Everything else (even Mickey Mouse!) is pretty much secondary.
Many cheer coaches won’t even allow their teams to visit the theme parks until AFTER they’re eliminated from the competition, so you might not really experience anything out of the ordinary until the first few days are over.
Towards the Middle and the End of the Competition
Once teams start dropping out, THEN you’ll start to see kids showing up at the parks. And once these championships are over, many teams make a point of staying an extra day or two to blow off a little of that competitive steam. Cheerleaders tend to travel in packs, so you’ll probably see some large groups of ’em (look for the BIG cheer hairbows!), but all in all, we’ve never found crowds to be THAT bad.
As long as you’ve got your FastPasses booked well in advance, you should be fine with normal to slightly above normal crowd levels (and noise levels) for a few days of your trip.
And for the Worlds Competition (the one in April), Disney’s Hollywood Studios typically holds a private after-hours party for cheer squads, meaning regular park guests will get the boot a few hours early. This is usually posted in advance on the displayed park hours, so you can plan around it — but be sure to be looking for it!
All in all, you really shouldn’t feel too much of a crunch at the parks. Now Disney World’s hotels, on the other hand, are a different story altogether.
Disney World Resorts During Cheer Events
Disney World resorts are where things start to get a little more noticeable.
Since each cheer squad is comprised of several members who often need to stay at the same hotel so they can practice, you might find yourself in the middle of an impromptu pep rally if you’re not careful!
Disney World’s Value Resorts
Cheerleaders will often stay on property at Disney World with Value Resorts being a popular option. Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, (not surprisingly) Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort tend to book up with these groups during the competitive season.
These groups can be found practicing on the hotel grounds at times, so if you find yourself at one of these hotels, be prepared for a little (okay, a lot) of extra energy and noise at the resort! Also, during those first few days of competition, the practices can be EARLY. So…we guess you won’t be missing Rope Drop after all?
Disney World’s Moderate Resorts
While Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is a moderate resort, it’s conveniently located near ESPN Wide World of Sports and many convention-goers choose it for its extra amenities.
If you’re staying at any of these resorts we’ve just mentioned, you’re more likely to see groups of pre-teens and teens stunting or training in common areas. They usually aren’t too rowdy, but you could hear cheering or music, which depending on your level of tolerance, might encourage you to stay elsewhere.
Disney Springs During Cheer Events
You might find Disney Springs to be a little more bustling during the cheer comps, especially in the evening when the groups are looking to enjoy some retail therapy and do some carbo-loading for the big day ahead. Shops might be a bit busier while restaurants tend to book up more quickly.
If you’d rather not deal with the extra crowds, do Disney Springs earlier in the day while the kids are still competing.
Transportation During Cheer Events
Many of the cheerleaders use Disney World’s ground transportation. This means you might experience some delays on your end due to the increased demand for buses.
You might also end up on a bus filled with cheerleaders or have to wait for another bus since an entire cheer squad just filled up a bus that’s heading to or from the parks.
Either way, we think it’s still pretty manageable to go to Disney World during Cheer Season as long as you manage your expectations and know what you’re getting into. We’ve been at Disney World many times during cheer competitions and have worked around the crowds with relative ease.
There might be some craziness, crowds, or extra noisiness at times, but for many of these youngsters, competing in a national championship at Disney World signifies a major athletic achievement in their young lives.
In the end, we ALL have something we hope to gain from going to Disney World, whether it’s a shiny cheer trophy or just a Mickey Pretzel! Thankfully neither are mutually-exclusive and we can all make some special Disney World memories that will last a lifetime whether we’re in it to win it or just have a relaxing vacation!
Have you ever visited Disney World during Cheer Season? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!