Fall Off-Season Is Over at Disney World

October 2022 is now underway, and the slow September at Walt Disney World appears to be in the rearview mirror. This wait times report covers data for the last month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, plus predictions of what to expect for the rest of this month and November 2022.

Our last crowd report was Least Busy 3 Weeks of 2022 at Walt Disney World! As covered there, the first two weeks of September 2022 were 1/10 on the crowd calendar, across the entirety of Walt Disney World. With identical averages, those two weeks are tied for #1 as the best of 2022 thus far.

Going back even further, those were the best numbers we’ve seen since the beginning of October last year. In the third week of September, the numbers increased quite a bit over those low-lows, but the wait times data still good enough for the #3 least-busy week of 2022. Not even the winter months of January or February could hold a candle to wait times during the first three weeks of September 2022.

Many readers and commenters on social media who had been in the parks, especially that third week, took issue with those assessments. I want to start by addressing that, as this has been a growing complaint, especially among longtime visitors to Walt Disney World.

As a threshold matter, what’s covered in these “crowd” reports is actually posted wait time data. These numbers are scraped from My Disney Experience constantly by Thrill-Data.com and compiled into graphs and all sorts of interesting charts on their website. That’s worth checking out if you’re a data junky, as you can create custom graphs, track wait times, etc–there are some really powerful and interesting tools. In any case, the wait time data is the wait time data. It is not wrong.

However, wait times are not conclusive of attendance or in-park congestion. There are several other variables that can impact “feels like” crowds, from festivals at EPCOT to weather to guest demographics to ride breakdowns to operational efficiency to time of day or day of the week. And that’s just a partial list! Beyond that, wait times can be manipulated by Walt Disney World. They’re often inflated, or otherwise inaccurate. (On the plus side, there’s usually consistency with this.)

All of those are significant variables right now. It’s no longer the primary tourist season, and a disproportionate number of locals or DVC members means more guests who place less emphasis on rides. It’s also Food & Wine, several attractions have been having downtime woes, staffing remains an issue, and it’s party season at Magic Kingdom. There was also a lot of inclimate weather last month, and not just Hurricane Ian.

This all impacts crowds, or the perception thereof, and how they diverge from wait times. It’s also one (of multiple) reasons why this September cannot be easily compared even to months during this spring break or summer when it comes to “feels like” crowds or congestion. It’s also incomparable to previous years that don’t have the same dynamics going on.

On top of all that, attendance has surged by millions of guests per year, and pretty much every single day of 2022 is significantly more crowded than 2012. Similarly, 2022 is much busier than 2020 and 2021. (This year still has not eclipsed 2019, which remains the busiest year in Walt Disney World history–but even that fall experienced an unprecedented crowd dynamic due to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.)

Numerical crowd calendar scores are relative and calculated on a rolling basis, meaning a low day on the crowd calendar now feels like a moderate day did a few years ago. In other words, a 1/10 today is not the same as a 1/10 in September 2012 or October 2015. Today’s 1/10 might be closer to a 5/10 from five years ago.

Those numerical scores are also relative to their respective parks–meaning today’s 1/10 is not even the same at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. There is no universal standard for crowd levels; it is all relative. (Are you confused yet?!)

Longtime Walt Disney World visitors might contend that this is a bad approach, as it fails to provide context for historical crowd levels. That is true. However, absent a time machine, no one can choose to visit Walt Disney World in October 2012 instead of October 2022. And, if you do have a time machine, I would hope crowd levels aren’t top of mind. You should be fixated on getting the best multi-angle 4K footage of the original Journey into Imagination!

Crowd calendars and assessments thereof are intended to serve a practical purpose rather than a historical one. From a predictive perspective, they offer insight into which weeks and months are best and worst to take a trip to Walt Disney World in terms of wait times. (Note that individual days are purposefully omitted because forecasting specific days has mostly become a fool’s errand.) Backward-looking, crowd reports rank the days, weeks, and months by wait times within a rolling 365 or 500-day timeframe.

As all of this should make clear, wait times are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s raw attendance or crowds.

Imperfect as they might be, wait times are still the best measure of crowds–and the only objective one. The alternative is relying on individual guest perceptions, which are much more flawed and incomplete. It’s impossible for anyone to be everywhere at once, and hard to know whether you’re in a pocket of crowds, what efficiency issues exist, and whether guests are disproportionately doing attractions or loitering about.

With that said, on-the-ground reader reports and comments about “feels like” crowds during recent trips, and how that differed from posted wait times, are actually quite useful as supplemental color commentary. That’s particularly true when coming from those who visit regularly or during the same week every year. It helps manage others’ expectations and contextualize what things are like beyond the numbers. Of course, that’s not the same as saying the wait time data is wrong.

Anyway, enough with the rambling preface. If you find value in these reports, you probably already have a similar perspective. If you’re thinking that this sounds useless given all the caveats, perhaps this post and crowd reports/calendars are not for you. Regardless, I felt this was worth reiterating for new readers or first-timers. It’s important to understand the strengths & limitations of crowd calendars/reports, methodology, and what’s up with Walt Disney World wait times v. “feels like” crowds right now.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the data and look at Walt Disney World wait times. As always, all graphs and stats are courtesy of Thrill-Data.com:

We’ll start with the monthly numbers for Walt Disney World as a whole.

September ended up having the lowest wait times of the year, and by a wide margin. Still not as good as August through October last year, but as a reminder, that was skewed by surging cancellations due to the Delta variant and reinstated mask rules. Again, not an apples to apples comparison.

Looking at the weekly numbers, we can see when wait times bottomed out in September, and when they began rising.

It almost certainly would be a clear upward trend but for Hurricane Ian. Not the closure–those days don’t skew the numbers–but the cancellations caused by Ian. At this point, those are probably not skewing the numbers to a meaningful degree.

Above is the daily average wait time data across Walt Disney World, which illustrates the above point.

The missing days are the closure. The few low days after that are due to cancellations and a lack of new arrivals for the days MCO was closed. In the last couple of days, wait times have bounced back and are in the 6/10 to 7/10 range. That’s much worse than early to mid-September, but a continuation of the trend before Hurricane Ian skewed things.

For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom. This one is a real roller coaster, with this Monday being a 10/10, but Sunday and Tuesday both being 2/10. So, what gives?

It’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which really disrupts attendance patterns at Magic Kingdom. This is something we’ve covered at length, again and again. Thus far, all days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom have been 1/10 or 2/10 on the crowd calendar. Every. Single. One.

At some point this month, that will change–we’ll start seeing 3/10 or 4/10 days because people will be “forced” into those days by the reservations system. However, the non-party days will also increase as compared to last month, with those 10/10 days in Magic Kingdom becoming more common.

Once again, we strongly recommend doing Magic Kingdom during the day before MNSSHP, bouncing to another park by ~4 pm. Even with 3/10 or 4/10 days, you’ll still come out ahead by avoiding Saturdays, Mondays, and other non-party days. We’ve also covered the upside to this approach in our Magic Kingdom Party Day Early Entry Report and My Day at Magic Kingdom Using Genie+ on a Party Night.

Above are the specific ride averages for Magic Kingdom.

The big surprise here is Peter Pan’s Flight passing Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I don’t have a conclusive explanation for this, but my guess is that it’s a mix of posted wait time inflation (both have it, but PPF’s tends to be worse) and Individual Lightning Lane not selling as well for SDMT as in past months (by contrast, Peter Pan’s Flight is a top Genie+ pick). That’s purely speculative, though. That graph is also for the month of September–in looking at October thus far, Peter Pan’s Flight falls back to #4.

Next up is Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom’s wait times were starting to increase pre-Ian, and that trend has resumed in the last couple of days. The park was averaging 1/10 to 3/10 weeks for most of August and September; that has spiked to an average of 6/10 thus far this week.

Here are Animal Kingdom ride averages for the month of September.

Both Pandora attractions eclipsed an hour, but that was it. Thus far in October, these numbers are all up considerably. On a positive note, Animal Kingdom now closes after sunset and the Tree of Life Awakenings have returned!

We highly recommend staying for evenings in DAK to enjoy the Tree of Life Awakenings, plus Pandora and the rest of the park after dark. Our Animal Kingdom Afternoon Arrival Strategy is once again the ideal approach for this park. Alternatively, Early Entry or rope drop are great. Genie+ is a waste of money at Animal Kingdom for at least the next month. Totally unnecessary (not that it ever was).

Over at EPCOT, it’s pretty much the same story–wait times are trending up from their August/September lows.

Even that is not the full story. More than any other park, EPCOT is notorious for a divergence between “feels like” crowds/congestion and wait times. This is especially true in World Showcase, during festivals, and on weekends and evenings. World Showcase is worse on weekends due to day drinking, while evenings are busier for people Park Hopping over to watch Harmonious. In short, people show up for things other than attractions, so that elevated attendance isn’t picked up by wait time data.

EPCOT during Food & Wine Festival weekend nights is a confluence of bad “feels like” crowd conditions. (Throw in an away UCF game and it’s a perfect storm!) In short, the low to moderate reported crowd levels probably wouldn’t align with the perception of most guests in the park. We try to avoid EPCOT on weekends during this time of year, and that’s precisely why.

Average wait times for Frozen Ever After, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Test Track were all above 50 minutes last month. However, actual waits for everything else were minimal, dragging down that overall average.

We like Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT, but we prefer morning–see EPCOT Early Entry v. Genie+. Spoiler: Early Entry wins handily. Once again, it’s pointless to purchase Genie+ at EPCOT for at least the next month or so.

I’m honestly shocked that Walt Disney World did not drop the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. It’s obvious–and has been for a few months–that this is no longer necessary. Removing the virtual queue would improve the guest experience, reducing friction and (perceived) stress.

It would also improve the operational efficiency of Cosmic Rewind, allow re-rides, and probably improve sales of Individual Lightning Lanes. I’m really not sure what Disney is waiting for here, but they missed a golden opportunity to get rid of this in August or September while crowds were low. If it happens now, it’ll be a bit more disruptive.

Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Same deal here. Throwing out last week, and there’s a gradual upward trend at DHS from 2/10 in early September to 6/10 this week.

Above are ride-by-ride wait times for Disney’s Hollywood Studios last month. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance finished the month below 100 minutes, which is the last month this year that’ll happen.

Thus far in October, Slinky Dog Dash is beating out Rise of the Resistance–99 v. 97 minute wait time on average. Both of those plus 5 other attractions are all averaging wait times over an hour in October 2022. It’ll be interesting to see how long those continue to increase.

With backward-looking wait times out of the way, let’s talk look forward to the rest of this month and November 2022. The Disney Park Pass calendar is yellow between today and October 15, 2022. To put that into perspective, every single day in September was green at this same time last month–and mostly remained that way.

As previously predicted, October 2022 is going to be a different story than last month. The month is only 5 days old, but already, we’ve had dates busier than any in September. My expectation is that this trend continues, especially heading into next week.

That’s the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend, which we’ve been pointing to as a bad week for a while. As discussed in the latest update to the October 2022 Crowd Calendar, this holiday always catches people by surprise, but it is busy at Walt Disney World during that long weekend and the dates thereafter.

This holiday coincides with fall break for many school districts, making it the most popular week for vacations to Walt Disney World since July. A contributing factor could be those who rescheduled trips due to Hurricane Ian, but that will not be the primary cause. (Rescheduled trips will likely impact the rest of the year and early 2023 equally.)

For months, we’ve been predicting that this will be the worst week in October 2022.

After that, we expect a drop-off the following week, likely back into the territory of crowd levels this week. The end of the month is a wildcard due to Halloween falling on a Monday. Our expectation is that the last full week is the second-busiest of the month, but likely not on par with next week.

The week encompassing Halloween and the start of November 2022 will likely be busy. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November 3-6, 2022) will also elevate crowds, but that should be partially upset by that being the gap between two holiday seasons. The week after that includes both Jersey Week and Veterans’ Day, and will be busy as a result.

Ultimately, the 1/10 to 3/10 crowd level weeks are done and the fall off-season is over at Walt Disney World. It was a good run while it lasted! We hope you took advantage of our advice and visited between mid-August and late September, because crowds will only go up from here for the rest of the year.

Going forward, there will be days and a scattering of weeks that offer reprieves, but the crowds that have returned thus far in October will only get worse from here. Attendance won’t let up in any consistent manner until after winter school breaks end in the second week of January 2023. The big questions are just how bad crowds get, how quickly, and whether there are slow stretches in the next three months between all those holiday weeks at Walt Disney World.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Thoughts on sleepy September crowds at Walt Disney World? Predictions for the rest of October through December 2022? How bad do you expect crowds to get for the heart of Halloween and the holiday season? If you’ve visited since mid-August, what did you think of wait times? Have you done Magic Kingdom during the day of a MNSSHP night? Thoughts on our forecast, analysis, or anything else? Agree or disagree with our commentary about “feels like” crowds v. wait times? If you’ve visited in prior months during the last year, how did crowds compare between then and now? What did you think of the wait times? Any parks or times of day noticeably worse than the others? Do you agree or disagree with anything in our report? 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!

40 Responses to “Fall Off-Season Is Over at Disney World”
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