Early Fall Crowds Falling at Disney World

Like clockwork, early fall crowds are falling at Walt Disney World. Schools throughout Florida and other Southern states are back in session, unofficially ushering in the off-season. This wait times report covers ride & daily data for last month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering commentary and predictions for September 2022.

By way of recap, crowds have followed a familiar pattern this month, with August starting out busier as summer wrapped up, with locals and tourists making their last visits before vacation season came to an end. Major school districts going back into session resulted in lower wait times, a trend that has accelerated since mid-month when Osceola and Orange Counties in Central Florida started their new academic years.

In addition to that, the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is now underway, bringing shorter operating hours to Magic Kingdom for regular guests on those evenings. This is something we already covered last week 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.

Thus far, the daytime hours before Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom have ranged from 1/10 to 2/10 on the crowd calendar. Our expectation is that these numbers will increase going forward (for the reasons discussed in that post), but they should remain low. But before we get to the forward-looking predictions, let’s take a look backwards at August 2022 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.

After peaking in June, summer crowds declined in July and that trend has continued in August. The average wait time across all attractions at Walt Disney World is now 38 minutes–identical to May.

With the week by week view, we can see that wait times started higher at the beginning of the month, and have dropped during the last two weeks.

Again, this mirrors May–but in reverse. That month started slow and got progressively busier, whereas August is on a downward trajectory.

Individual days illustrate mostly the same, but with more bars.

Now that schools are starting to go back into session, it’s likely these numbers will drop even further. With one week left in August, it’ll be interesting to see whether wait times fall enough to make this the least busy month of 2022 at Walt Disney World (so far).

For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom.

It’s a “tale of two crowd levels” at Magic Kingdom, with full operating days (9 am to 11 pm) being in the ~4/10 or 5/10 range and days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party being 1/10. (Note that this does not include wait times during MNSSHP–only before it starts.)

Here are the specific ride averages for Magic Kingdom:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 71 minutes
  • Meet Mickey & Minnie at Town Square Theater: 69 minutes
  • Peter Pan’s Flight: 68 minutes
  • Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater: 58 minutes
  • Splash Mountain: 57 minutes
  • Jungle Cruise: 53 minutes
  • Space Mountain: 44 minutes

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. Nicely done, Minnie.

If I had to guess, I’d say this meet & greet is likely operating at 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.

Assuming staffing is an issue here, it’s almost certainly due to the return of other meet & greets in Magic Kingdom coupled with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Several characters have started appearing around the park on a daily basis, and there are numerous meet & greets at MNSSHP that are a shift (7 pm to midnight) that normally wouldn’t be staffed with characters. Fewer meet & greets were a complaint in our 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Photo Report, and staffing is likely the explanation for that, too.

Animal Kingdom has seen its crowd levels fall this month to the 5/10 range most days.

August 19 is the one big exception to that–it was a 9/10 for some reason. Not sure what happened that day to lead to the spike.

Here are the attraction averages for Animal Kingdom:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage: 90 minutes
  • Na’vi River Journey: 63 minutes
  • Kali River Rapids: 51 minutes
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris: 50 minutes
  • Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost: 44 minutes
  • Dinosaur: 35 minutes
  • Expedition Everest: 34 minutes

Another inexplicable spike: Avatar Flight of Passage is up by 15 minutes, from 75 to 90 minutes. That’s a significant jump, especially at a time when every other wait time in the park dropped.

The most likely scenario here is that the attraction is operating at reduced capacity, with one theater down. We haven’t personally heard anything about this, but it’s not as if Avatar fans who are hyped up for the sequel(s) have suddenly descended upon Disney en masse.

Over at EPCOT, wait times continue their gradual decline from early summer levels.

Most of these lows are occurring Fridays through Sundays, which makes sense. EPCOT is the locals’ park, and Floridians are more likely to visit for festivals and atmosphere than rides. Locals are also more likely than tourists to cancel park plans at the last minute if the weather is bad–and it has been a hot and rainy month-plus.

Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:

  • Frozen Ever After: 71 minutes
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 67 minutes
  • Test Track: 66 minutes
  • Soarin’ Around the World: 41 minutes
  • Mission Space: 38 minutes

These times for headliners at EPCOT are actually down quite a bit, albeit still all above an hourThe supporting player attractions are almost all at 15 minutes (and walk-ons for much of the day, in actuality), which really drags down the average.

It’s only a matter of time until Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind drops its virtual queue and adds a standby line, which will spike the average pretty significantly. While we think this would be the “right” thing to do as it would reduce friction and stress, we’re also admittedly a bit happy it hasn’t happened yet.

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. (It’ll also require us overhauling all of our EPCOT strategy, which I’m not looking forward to doing yet again.)

Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Remember all of our grousing about DHS being the “most frustrating park” at Walt Disney World? Well, that’s a thing of the past…for now. 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 3/10 at DHS is an average wait time of 42-44 minutes, whereas 3/10 at Magic Kingdom is 31-33 minutes. That’s actually a pretty big difference over the course of the day.

Here are ride-by-ride wait times for Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the month:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 103 minutes
  • Slinky Dog Dash: 90 minutes
  • Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 75 minutes
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 69 minutes
  • Toy Story Mania: 65 minutes
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 61 minutes
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 52 minutes

It’s also worth noting that these wait times vary widely over the course of the day. The bulk of guests cram into DHS during the midday hours and typically leave early. Early Entry and the last two hours of the evening remain blissfully uncrowded, and you can accomplish more during those ~3 hours than the entirety of the midday stretch.

This will change once Fantasmic (finally) returns. That will normalize crowd levels over the course of the day, and should lower these averages. It’s another change that’ll be good for the park and average guests. (Selfishly, we’ll miss these quiet nights at DHS. Here’s hoping the upgrades to Fantasmic make its belated return worth the wait.)

For the sake of comparison, here’s a high-level look at the weekly wait time averages for Universal Orlando.

The general trend of Universal Orlando’s crowd levels in the last month track with those of Walt Disney World. The big difference is that there has been a bit of a bump in the last week, with crowd levels going from 4/10 to 5/10. Still, pretty slow.

After today, the Disney Park Pass calendar is nothing but green until mid-October. (The week of Columbus Day, which always catches people by surprise since “no one” has the holiday off work. Someone must, because it’s typically busy!)

This is partly due to a recent reservation refill, which turned the rest of this week green. This appears to have occurred in tandem with the multiple changes to Disney Park Pass policies at Walt Disney World. It’s a good time to book reservations now, especially for Magic Kingdom on party days if you couldn’t get them before.

Looking forward, our expectation is that crowds 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. Even Labor Day draws far fewer visitors than most other holidays.

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.

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 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.

Nevertheless, there will be many on social media (and perhaps in the comments to posts here) who see this post’s headline or future crowd report titles and attribute the falling numbers to boycotts, price increases, consumer unfriendly policies, or whatever the outrage du jour is next month.

If that’s what you want to do, it’s certainly your prerogative. My one request would be that you return to either celebrate your ongoing “victory” or admit “defeat” when the October and November crowd reports roll around. Because all of the aforementioned “causes” of lower attendance would not be confined exclusively to mid-August through September. If those are the real reasons for lower attendance–and not easily predictable patterns that are true year in and out–they surely won’t end when September concludes. Right?!

Ultimately, our expectation is that lower attendance continues over the course of the next week to a sufficient degree that August claims the crown of least crowded month at Walt Disney World in 2022. That title will likely be short-lived, as September tends to be even slower.

From my perspective, the big question mark is when the fall group events and convention crowds arrive. There’s an outside chance that the last week of September sees an outsized spike due the arrival of these, plus early fall breaks for various school districts around the country and diehard WDW fans visiting for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary. In that case, September might end up being slightly busier than August.

Personally, I’d bet against that. My expectation is that the arrival of fall crowds coincides with Columbus Day weekend, and that continues to accelerate with only minor reprieves here and there throughout the holiday season. Early 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. It might be smart to plan a last-minute long weekend, if you can swing it!

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 early fall 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!

37 Responses to “Early Fall Crowds Falling at Disney World”
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