Disney Springs Weeknight Crowds Report
It’s time for another Disney Springs photo report. Walt Disney World’s shopping, dining, and entertainment district has now been operating for exactly 3 months since reopening, and had yet to do another photo report since Our Ghost Town Visit to Disney Springs. If anything, this update is overdue–we’ve been back several times since then, and crowds ceased to be that low a while ago.
This results from a variety of changes and subsequent steps in Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. First came the reopening of World of Disney, D-Luxe Burger, and the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs. Then the return of Disney Vacation Club resorts, followed by other hotels. Finally, the theme parks resumed operations. Suffice to say, a lot has changed and many more people are now in the Walt Disney World area.
It’s unsurprising that crowds would pick up as guests started to return to the Walt Disney World area. Our original expectation was that guest numbers would increase as tourists started to return and Floridians grew more restless, looking for things to do outside. However, there are a couple of other wildcards that have exacerbated crowds at Disney Springs…
All of the operational changes to Walt Disney World’s theme parks are contributing to the crowds. Without the park hopper option, more guests head to Disney Springs when they are “done” with whichever park they visit for the day. The shorter park hours have the same impact, especially since it makes more sense to do dinner outside the parks. Most people aren’t ready for bed at 6 or 7 pm.
The lack of in-park restaurant options and scaled back menus also push guests towards Disney Springs. The elimination of the Disney Dining Plan results in some guests being more deliberate and value-conscious in choosing where to eat, and the value proposition is better at many Disney Springs restaurants. Other factors also likely nudge guests towards Disney Springs.
Then there are locals, especially those who are Annual Passholders. When we initially covered the reopening of Disney Springs, we discussed diehard fans wanting to get their “fix” while Walt Disney World’s theme parks were closed. Originally, we would’ve expected locals to shift their visits to the parks once those reopened.
However, it’s unclear whether or to what extent that has actually occurred. We don’t need to rehash all of the Annual Passholder woes since then. Suffice to say, between AP cancellations and problems with the Disney Park Pass system, it’s safe to say that many Annual Passholders (or ex-APs) are simply not visiting the theme parks instead. These locals are still visiting Disney Springs to get their “dose of Disney.”
Which brings us to the crowds we had experienced at Disney Springs over the last month-plus. We made a variety of quick visits during that time for random reasons (buying a dorky hat, returning online orders, urgent pizza & gelato needs, etc.) and noticed attendance climbing.
More concerning, we observed less rule enforcement, physical distancing getting lax, and mask compliance decreasing. It thus seemed like a good time to go back with my camera for the afternoon and evening to do a proper Disney Springs photo report…
In recent weeks, parking has been one source of frustration with Disney Springs. The flyover ramp for Orange Garage is seldom open when we go, which results in backups on the road and while entering the garage. This has been particularly bad on weekends.
This time, we went early enough in the afternoon to beat the post-work crowd, thus avoiding that problem. Parking and the temperature check were a breeze, taking a few minutes total.
Afternoon crowds at Disney Springs were virtually non-existent.
Definitely more people than you’d see in World Showcase at the same hour, but nothing as compared to what we’d recently witnessed at Disney Springs.
At this point in the day, crowds were around the norm for this time of year–which is to say, pretty low.
When schools go back into session and Walt Disney World enters its bona-fide late summer off-season, Disney Springs is usually pretty slow on weekdays.
To be sure, there were some areas of mild crowding. The exit of Lime Garage and area around Polite Pig is busier, as is the area in front of World of Disney, and a few other spots.
Our expectation was that this would pick up as the evening wore on.
That never happened.
Crowds probably peaked around 7 pm, and even then they weren’t particularly bad.
This wasn’t due to rain or other inclement weather–I’m not totally sure why crowds fizzled out.
Whatever the reason, it was a pretty nice evening at Disney Springs. Not at all what we expected.
As with so many other recent nights in the last couple of weeks, there was an absolutely epic sunset.
Many of these have come out of nowhere, with overcast skies that clear just enough to allow sun to poke through and illuminate the rest of those clouds.
One thing to underscore here is that we’re not casting doubt on reports of elevated attendance at Disney Springs.
We’ve experienced exactly that, so there’s no question to us that Disney Springs actually has been busier. The whole point of this visit was take my camera in order to document and report on those higher crowds!
Instead, we ended up with an experience that was not even remotely busy, but also wasn’t totally quiet or empty.
It was more or less comfortable–the normal low crowds that are typical at Disney Springs this time of year. That’s not exactly the most exciting or interesting thing to report, but we can only share and report what we observe.
What’s unclear to us is whether what we experienced was an anomaly or what can be expected going forward over the course of the next couple months as Walt Disney World enters its off-season.
Crowd patterns throughout Walt Disney World have been somewhat inconsistent, so it wouldn’t be the first time for an unexplainable one-off. However, we’re more inclined to think maybe Disney Springs is starting to “chill out.” (There’s also more and more open, which does help ‘absorb’ some crowds.)
A couple of unequivocally positive notes: mask compliance and physical distancing were both considerably better than in other recent visits to Disney Springs.
We noticed more Cast Members out and about, plus new signage scattered around walkways. The audio spiel that plays in the parks has also been added to Disney Springs–this was our first time hearing that. All of that definitely made a difference. Far less walking and drinking, fewer noses out, etc. Mask compliance probably around 95%, which was about 5% higher than our last visit to Disney Springs before this.
Another plus is that Chicken Guy had zero wait, so naturally we had to do a quality-check to ensure that the food was still delicious.
Jury is still out on that one. Will probably have to go back again soon for more thorough and comprehensive testing. It’s imperative. (Joking aside, I know the reaction among Walt Disney World fans has been mixed, but I’m a big fan of Chicken Guy–reasonable prices, addictively good sauces, and solid chicken. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a solid meal with unique and indulgent flavors.)
In some other random updates, the Edison, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, and Enzo’s Hideaway are all now open for dinner service beginning at 5 pm daily.
There was plenty of walk-up availability at these and most restaurants we walked past.
In even bigger news, visible progress is being made on Gideon’s Bakehouse.
While 2020 may have taken Ample Hills from us, it is going to give Walt Disney World fans the best cookies ever. Having both establishments in Disney Springs might’ve been resulted in overdoses of awesomeness (or sugar comas).
Bus service and lines at these depots towards the end of the night did not appear too bad.
We popped in a couple of times and saw tons of buses back here with only modest lines. That’s totally anecdotal, though–we didn’t sit around to thoroughly monitor anything.
Now that the AMC Theater is reopening and offering cheap tickets, maybe more locals will be drawn back?
That seems doubtful to us. We’re comfortable doing a lot of things right now…going to a movie theater is not among them.
Ultimately, perhaps this is not the most insightful or incisive report on crowds from Disney Springs. The fact is, we’re not 100% sure that this is Disney Springs turning the corner as a result of the off-season. Our plan at this point is to go back the weekend after Labor Day (if not before then for some random reason) to see what things look like on an off-season Saturday.
In the interim, our biggest piece of advice if you’re a tourist vacationing at Walt Disney World would be to avoid Disney Springs on weekends. Due to local turnout, Friday and Saturday night are busier than weekdays. Go late and stay late. Not only are crowds lower, but the weather is more pleasant and transportation (or the parking situation) should be more bearable closer to closing.
Regardless of attendance at Disney Springs for the next couple of months, we still expect crowds to pick up come November and December. The entire holiday season always results in a surge of locals doing Christmas shopping and meals with family. That’s pretty much a sure thing. It remains to be seen if the same (or something similar) holds true of weekends in September and October. We’ll report back soon!
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Have you visited Disney Springs since it reopened? Did you have issues with parking, crowds, transportation, or lines? Weekend or weekday visit? Where did you dine or shop? How was your experience? Would you recommend others visit, or hold off? Will you be visiting Disney Springs in the near future? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Spent about two hours at DS this morning. When we arrived (9:30 am), we were able to drive right into the Orange garage and parked on the first floor. Temperature check was quick and easy. We got on the WOD line just before opening. Rough estimate about 50 to 75 people lined up spaced out pretty good around the corner of the store. Got squirted by Stitch so you know which corner. WOD opened before 10 a.m..Our shopping mission was a success as we picked up the new Disney Parks edition Jungle Cruise board game we were looking for. Went to a few other stores including pin traders. We saw several guests removing their masks to take posed pictures and selfies. It convinced me to buy NIOSH N95 masks for our future visits. By 11 a.m. we were looking at a 86 degree temperature and a real feel of 101 degrees. By then, the Orange garage had filled up substantially. As we left, we ended up making the double U turn to get to I-4. There was a long line of cars in the far right lane trying to get into the garage. Needless to say, drivers were passing that line in the second lane and then cutting in ahead of all the waiting cars. A word to the wise, if you read about something being sold at WOD that you want; don’t hesitate. Go shopping for your desires quickly. It is like not having fast enough fingers on the keys at the Shop Disney web site.
Our family drove from Ponce Inlet to DS last week on Wednesday for dinner at Morimoto Asia. Dinner was great as usual there. So was dessert and pastries at Amorette’s. A light rain may have kept some people away that evening but it only lasted about an hour and did not disrupt us at all. The only waits we had were at the Star Wars Store and Pin Traders. Other than that the crowds were light. While I liked the smaller crowds, I still dislike the mask requirements and we agreed that we can’t see ourselves spending all day in 90+ degree heat in a park wearing one. Dinner and a few hours of shopping we’re fine for us though and we had a great time.
We are at Disney now until Thursday. Did AK today and since it’s a Saturday decided to just stay at the resort this evening. Will hit DS tomorrow late afternoon in hopes of a lower crowd than I assumed there’d be tonight. We also have $5 tickets for the 630PM Star Wars movie at AMC. Looking forward to seeing how safety measures are executed.
Update: we went last night and everything at AMC was comfortable…walking around Disney Springs, not so much. It was way crowded, in my opinion. I’d guess a 90% mask wearing compliance.
We are driving home to Massachusetts as I read this and we arrived on Sunday went down to DS to grab dinner since we were not wasting a park ticket on arrival day and it was super busy but not like the normal days (we come down in August every year) we were able to walk into World of Disney but left pretty quickly as a family of about 6-10 walked over to us at the “mug” section and half had masks under their noses While talking but also walked up to us like COVID was non existent and one of them pushed my daughter out of the way coming in contact with her and IGNORING my husband when he reminded them about Social Distancing and gave up because of a previous post of yours I told my husband that if we come back early hours it will be better. We went back on our Thursday right at 10-11 when it opened and it was night and day difference we did all our shopping a couple hours and had no issues. Unfortunately you always have the “ones” that don’t listen but I felt a lot “safer” in the parks people were more respectful of the rules. Thank you for your posts!
Good to know. We went several times on a visit in July (because of early park closure times) and it was great to have so many excellent eating options (incredible meals at Boathouse & Homecomin’) and the crowds were OK but I wouldn’t have been comfortable with a higher level because I did think mask and distancing enforcement was not as good. We felt we had to be more proactive about getting away from groups who encroached on our space.
So when I heard reports of more crowds I was wondering whether we’d bother to go there at all on a next trip (potentially in October). Sounds like if we stick to weeknights we’ll be good to go.
Thanks for noting that the weather was good most of those day, as some of those BEAUTIFUL photos make it look like heavy cloud cover. The crowd mystery continues…
There was heavy cloud cover–but only a light sprinkle of rain several hours earlier–which meant slightly lower temperatures. All things considered, I think that’s good weather this time of year in Florida!
We’re at Disney now, staying at the Contemporary, and we went to disney springs on Friday the 21st around 4pm and there was a decent crowd. After our 5:30 dinner the crowd was even larger. We got back to the hotel around 9pm and there was a huge line at the contemporary to get on the bus.
I hope that the pandemic will eventually cause the cigar store to finally close its doors in Disney Springs. No mask can cover that stench.
We went on a Friday night and it was packed! Couldn’t get in world of Disney, it was a HUGE line just to put in your number for the mobile queue. We had gone that night because Friday was our AK day so we had dinner at Homecomin’. We left pretty quickly after dinner. We went back on Monday morning (11am) so we could go to World of Disney and it was much better. I figured it would be with most locals at work. We were also the only ones to and from on the bus from Beach Club.
What’s an AK day?
Animal Kingdom park day, I would assume.
I went Saturday and it was almost like a normal summer evening. Definitely lack on the masks, distancing, and sanitizer. We went the Thursday prior and it was pleasant and distanced. definitely avoid the weekends.
We stopped over at DS every day of our 3 day trip last week that was a Wed, Thur and Fri.
Entering and temp check was very quick. During the day because of the heat and people being at the parks there were not existent crowds, but at early night/late evening because of like you said Tom the parks close early there were a good amount of people, however we stayed late 2 nights and the crowds were minimal and when we went out to the bus stop to go back to the resort there was no one but us waiting for at least 10 minutes. We also found disappointing that late at night the food options were very low because many places closed at 9 instead of staying open to the 10pm close time, unless you went to a large place like Planet Hollywood, even T Rex restaurant was closed early at 9pm. Overall we enjoyed our time there when compared to other visits regarding crowd level, knowing all to well on our trip in Dec for Christmas it will be “busy”.
We were in Orlando from July 24 – August 2nd. We went on Saturday night the 25th and after 30 minutes we left – there was hardly room to walk. While I was there I talked with a cast member working at the pin store and he told me that the crowds are hit/miss – and that there didn’t seem to be a pattern to it. We almost didn’t go back, but later that week we had a reservation at Homecomin’ and we kept it. We were glad we did because it was sparse that night… So – inconsistent and hard to predict seem to be the message from our experience.
This is definitely less crowded than when I went at 5pm in late July. Getting in to the parking garage was a lesson in frustration as it was on the wrong side of the street from where we were coming from, and they’d closed most of the u-turn lanes and even an entire road, causing us to have to circle almost completely back around Disney. I really have no idea why they did that.
Even still, walking around there were a bunch of people who had just taken their masks off completely–not even eating and walking. That was particularly scary for me. We ate at Morimotos and got a table right inside the door, which I was thankful for because the table distancing inside at Disney Springs wasn’t nearly as good as it was when we ate at Sanaa. I’m with you, indoor dining makes me nervous…but sadly a lot of the places you can eat outdoors at Disney Springs did not seem to have good offerings for vegetarians. I know you and Sarah do a lot of plant-based food…if you could do a post at some point about the best restaurants at Disney Springs for the veggie crowd that would be amazing.
Regardless of the crowds we still had a good time, and appreciated the store attendance caps even if they could use better signage as to where the *entrances* to some of the larger stores are.
I have never been there to eat but might have to in November because of hours in parks and low choice.
There are some great restaurants there! We are also still planning on our November trip barring quarantine or numbers making it impossible and plan to make some reservations at Disney Springs and also the resorts whose decorations I want to see the most! Still hoping the Park hours get expanded into the hours a little bit at least by then.
Ugh not enough coffee yet. “Still hoping park hours get expanded into the evenings!”