Off-season has arrived again at Walt Disney World! This wait times report covers ride & daily data for last month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering commentary, predictions, and a sneak peek of what to expect for the rest of September 2022.
Crowds followed a familiar pattern last month. August started out busier as summer wrapped up, with locals and tourists making “last hurrah” visits before vacation season came to an end. Major school districts going back into session mid-month resulted in lower wait times, a trend accelerating in the last week as more and more schools started their new academic years.
In addition to that, the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party started, bringing shorter operating hours to Magic Kingdom for regular guests on those evenings. This is something we already covered in Magic Kingdom’s Third Slowest Day of 2022!The title pretty much says it all, but the post is worth skimming if you’re somehow still on the fence about doing MK on MNSSHP days.
For those who are still somehow on the fence about Magic Kingdom on party days, we will have more posts coming soon that reiterate just how good these dates are for visiting Magic Kingdom. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m still writing about this. The upside is obvious; I don’t know what else I can conceivably say to convince those who remain unpersuaded.
But I digress. Let’s take a look backwards at August 2022 crowds, along with a look at September thus far. As always, all graphs and wait time stats are courtesy of Thrill-Data.com:
We’ll start with the monthly numbers for Walt Disney World as a whole.
August crowds arrived with a roar but went out with a whimper.
Prior to Central Florida schools going back into session mid-month, August was on par with July for wait times.
The last couple of weeks went downhill fast; the average wait time across all attractions at Walt Disney World ended up being 36 minutes. That makes August the slowest (completed) month of the year at Walt Disney World in 2022. It won’t hold that title for long.
I’m guessing many of you are fixated on those green bars at the very far right of each graph.
That trend started this week. Crowd levels have been 2/10 or 1/10 since Sunday.
For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom.
As noted above, Magic Kingdom has regularly been having 1/10 or 2/10 days since the start of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Expect those to become increasing common throughout sleepy September, including non-party nights. (Weekdays only.)
Above are the specific ride averages for Magic Kingdom.
I’m going to stop typing this out–it’s tedious and you can just read the graph.
Note that the Mickey Mouse meet & greet appears twice because it started the month as “Meet Mickey” and is now “Meet Mickey & Minnie.” Despite lower crowd levels, the duo is pulling a higher wait time by 11 minutes.
This is due to reduced capacity. Genie+ availability has been limited (so that’s not causing the elevated standby waits) and this is not notorious for abnormally inflated wait times. To the contrary, we’ve been burned here by longer-than-posted wait times.
If this is important to you, either do the meet & greet right when it opens in the morning or right as Festival of Fantasy ends (our go-to approach). Even then, be prepared for a longer wait. This is currently the most difficult attraction to strategize around at Magic Kingdom–it’s worse than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! We do not currently recommend Genie+ at Magic Kingdom, but this meet & greet is the biggest reason to consider buying it.
Animal Kingdom has seen its crowd levels fall to 2/10 or 1/10 since August 27.
Even before that, it was in the 4/10 range most days after school went back into session.
For the entire month, Avatar Flight of Passage is the only attraction that averaged a wait time over an hour in August.
Unsurprisingly, that’s already down in September. Our Animal Kingdom Afternoon Arrival Strategyis 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, wait times continue their gradual decline from early summer levels.
Like Animal Kingdom, crowd levels have been 2/10 or 1/10 since last Friday. Even before that, EPCOT has been pretty slow.
Average wait times for Frozen Ever After, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Test Track were all above an hour in August. 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 has not dropped the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. It’s obvious–and has been for at least a month–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 watch the virtual queue not go away until the end of September–right before crowds return.
But we won’t complain too loudly–the virtual queue is now pretty easy for anyone who tries at or around the time it opens, making this a “freebie” low wait attraction. It’ll easily be another hour-plus wait once standby debuts.
Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Same deal here–2/10 or 1/10 crowd levels since last Friday. Even before that, the average crowd level has been 3/10 in the last two weeks.
With that said, it’s important to understand that crowd levels are relative to other dates at the same park. Consequently, a 2/10 at DHS is an average wait time of 40 minutes, whereas 2/10 at Magic Kingdom is 27 minutes. That’s actually a pretty big difference over the course of the day.
Above are ride-by-ride wait times for Disney’s Hollywood Studios last month. Thanks to crowd levels dropping in the last week, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance finished the month below 100 minutes.
This marks the first month this year when no attraction at Walt Disney World had a triple-digit average. Thus far in September, Slinky Dog Dash is beating out Rise of the Resistance. Both of those plus Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run are all averaging wait times just over an hour. It’ll be interesting to see whether those continue falling. Might September be the month of sub-60 minute waits on everything at Walt Disney World?! (Our guess: probably not.)
The Disney Park Pass calendar is nothing but green for the entirety of September 2022.
This includes all of Labor Day weekend. This is not typically a busy holiday weekend at Walt Disney World, which catches some fans by surprise. It’ll likely be busier than last weekend or this week, but it’s not particularly crowded by long weekend standards.
As we’ve mentioned previously, October 2022 will be a different story. While it’s too early to say when the crowds will return, we can now say “probably by October 5” given reservations that week. Personally, I’m expecting that last week in September to be when attendance picks back up.
Also, speaking of holiday weeks that catch people by surprise, there’s Columbus Day. This probably has little to do with people hyped on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria and descending upon Walt Disney World to celebrate the explorer. Rather, the holiday coincides with fall break for many school districts. I know we’ve discussed Park Pass reservations sometimes being a red herring because Walt Disney World uses reservations to redistribute crowds, but that week will almost certainly be busy.
In the nearer term, our expectation is that wait times continue falling. As discussed in the latest update to the September 2022 Crowd Calendar, this is the best month of the year to visit from a wait times perspective. Literally the entire month sees below average attendance.
There’s really no bad time to visit as far as the September 2022 crowd calendar goes. The first weekend and the last week will be the two busiest weeks. However, “busiest” is a relative term, as even those should be really light compared to the entirety of October.
What’s more difficult to predict is when attendance will bottom out.
Walt Disney World has not had a “normal” September since 2018, which is an eternity ago when it comes to trendwatching. Crowd dynamics haven’t been normal the last two years for obvious reasons, and before that was the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
My personal expectation is that the least busy week of the year at Walt Disney World will end up being September 11-17, 2022. That’s just a “for fun” guess, though.
Weather will probably be a bigger factor than anything else–extreme heat, rain, or a possible hurricane scare factor more than past precedent when dealing with such a low baseline.
Regardless, September is one of the last bastions of the off-season at Walt Disney World. This has been consistently true even as attendance has spiked during other previously off-season months.
In fact, we named September 2022 the #1 month to visit in our Best & Worst 2022-2023 Months to Visit Walt Disney World because of how predictably uncrowded it is. Whereas other off-season months have gotten busier, September has stayed the same–and (knock on wood) always should remain that way due to school schedules and less desirable weather.
Ultimately, our expectation is that lower attendance continues throughout most of September 2022. Even with a slight spike for Labor Day and perhaps one at the end of the month, it’s a near-certainty that September will be the least busy month of the year. If savor low crowds and you can visit this month, you really should.
As we’ve said before, this absolutely will not last. Low attendance in September is not the start of a trend due to price increases, boycotts, or whatever else. The crowds will return in October and won’t let up–at least, not consistently–until January 2023. September is the sleepy slow season at Walt Disney World, and has been for decades.
While there are scattered dates booking in early October, my expectation is that the arrival of fall crowds in “full force” coincides with Columbus Day weekend. It likely won’t let up much after that. Signs point to the last three months of the year being busy, so if you only care about numbers–and not weather or Christmas–the next month is the time to visit Walt Disney World. Your window of opportunity is this month–and this month only.
Thoughts on August and September crowds at Walt Disney World? Predictions for the rest of the month or fall off-season? If you’ve visited within the last month, what did you think of wait times? Have you done Magic Kingdom during the day of a MNSSHP night? What about posted v. actual wait times? 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!