May 2023 has arrived, which means the summer tourist season is about a month away at Walt Disney World. This crowd report shares wait times data, which dates ended up being the worst of the season, thoughts on what’s likely to happen next with attendance levels in the next two months, and more.
We first looked at the post-spring break attendance trends in Sharp Shoulder Season Slowdown at Walt Disney World. However, that was only published only a few days after the heart of the school break season had ended and before new Annual Pass sales resumed.
It was very much a preliminary assessment, with only a few days of data. Those days could’ve been a brief lull before crowds picked back up or the start of shoulder season at Walt Disney World. (Given the title of the post, you should be able to surmise which is the case.) This crowd report basically looks at whether that’s the case and what to expect going forward…
As always, what’s covered in these “crowd” reports is actually posted wait time data that’s pulled from My Disney Experience and compiled into graphs for tracking and comparing various days, weeks, months, and years. A lot can be gleaned from posted wait times, but it’s not necessarily conclusive of in-park congestion or crowds. However, wait times are not the same as “feels like” crowds or congestion.
In short, wait times are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s crowds, especially if you’re comparing current conditions to prior years. Walt Disney World attendance has increased by several million people over the course of the last decade-plus, so the vast majority of days in 2023 will be more crowded than their counterparts in 2015 or 2017.
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.
With an average wait time of 40 minutes, April ended up being the second-least busy month of 2023 thus far. This reflects an ongoing shift of attendance patterns with January and February getting busier (a longer winter break and Mardi Gras/Presidents’ Day coinciding in February didn’t help).
It also underscores just how much attendance plummeted in the last two weeks of the month. As of our last crowd report, which encompassed only a few days post-spring break, the average wait time for April 2023 was 47 minutes. Through its first half, it was the busiest month ever at Walt Disney World.
The fact that April didn’t end up being the busiest month ever (or even in the top 20) despite such a strong first half should tell you pretty much everything you need to know.
Above is a look at weekly wait times. The last two weeks were both 1/10 crowd levels. April did finish with the second-busiest week of the year (Easter), but outside of that, every single week was average or (far) below.
Zooming out more, we come to the resort-wide daily numbers for Walt Disney World.
This shows a drop-off post-Easter, but more significantly, it shows a downright plummet starting on Saturday. That Sunday two weeks ago ended up being the slowest day of 2023 (so far) at Walt Disney World. Most days since have been 1/10 or 2/10 on the crowd calendar, with two days that were 4/10.
At Magic Kingdom, the numbers aren’t quite as bad. Instead of 1/10 being the most common crowd level since Easter, it’s 2/10 with a handful of 3/10 crowd level days. Still a great time to visit Magic Kingdom.
That’s good enough for an average wait time just below 30 minutes in the last two weeks. (Although you can’t see them because I’ve narrowed the graph date range, but the lows of last year’s party season still skew crowd levels at Magic Kingdom. Outside of those days, the second half of April was about as good as it gets at Magic Kingdom!)
As always, EPCOT is the park most impacted by turnout among locals. It’s seeing its lowest wait times of the year, despite (arguably) an increase in attendance and congestion after the resumption of AP sales.
Our expectation is that May 2023 is the ‘sweet spot’ of low wait times and ‘feels like’ crowds at EPCOT. Flower & Garden Festival is now old news, so it won’t be as much of a draw for locals, and the story with wait times won’t reverse. (That is, unless Cosmic Rewind drops the virtual queue, in which case it won’t really be a reversal so much as new data entering the system.)
The second half of April was one of the best stretches of the last two years at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As previously mentioned, April 16 was the slowest at DHS since October 2021.
It’s exceedingly rare when DHS doesn’t have a single attraction–not even Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Slinky Dog Dash–average a wait time of over an hour. And yet, that’s exactly what has happened here on several days in the last two weeks.
Animal Kingdom had the busiest days of any park in the second half of April, which is undoubtedly due to Earth Day and its 25th Anniversary. I’m somewhat surprised that this moved the needle that much on wait times, as that does not usually happen for Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
My guess (a complete shot in the dark) is that locals make the trek out to DAK less, so when they do, they have more of an incentive to do a few attractions. By contrast, everything at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom is old news because they visit those parks exponentially more. (Perhaps this is me projecting, but I really don’t think so. We have friends who visit EPCOT and/or Magic Kingdom more than once per week, and maybe do DAK 1-2 times per year. It’s a pretty common dynamic.)
For those wondering how Walt Disney World’s wait times compare to Universal Orlando, the trend is about the same for the last couple weeks. In general, Universal has seen a more pronounced slowdown on off-peak dates than Walt Disney World this year.
Like Animal Kingdom, Universal also saw a sharp spike for Earth Day. That probably has more to do with it being a Saturday than Earth Day, though. (Unless I’m missing something.)
This is our first time sharing the above graph, which tracks the price of Genie+ (blue) with average wait times across all of Walt Disney World (grey).
One thing that should stick out is that the highest crowd levels correspond with the highest prices. That makes complete sense. However, what is most interesting about this to me is how poorly the non-peak pricing tracks with crowds. If you look at moderate or lower crowd levels…the prices for Genie+ are all over the place. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about Walt Disney World’s ability to forecast attendance and price accordingly.
Suffice to say, it’s shoulder season until around mid-June 2023, which is when we’d normally expect summer crowds to start arriving in full force. Attendance will trend upwards before that–starting around Memorial Day weekend–but the parks should see any truly bad days until mid-June.
Unlike the early fall off-season, May 2023 is not an inherently undesirable time to visit Florida. While starting to warm, the weather is not something that actively discourages travelers. From that perspective, it’s not the same as storm or hurricane season. May 2023 also comes after shorter school breaks, versus the lengthy summer vacation that’ll lead up to August/September 2023.
However, May is similar in other ways. Walt Disney World’s big public event is EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival, and that’s old news by the time May 2023 rolls around. It’s also arguably less of a draw than the early end of Halloween season and EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival in August and September.
There’s only one cheer or dance competition scheduled at the ESPN Wide World of Sports this month, but there probably are a number of conventions and group events. As a general matter, these events have minimal impact on overall crowd levels, but they can impact ‘feels like’ crowds on a case-by-case basis.
If May 2023 follows established trends, crowds will continue to drop this month, before bottoming out in the second week of the month. In a normal year, wait times would start to rise again in the third week of May. However, it’s worth noting that the end of April usually offers a higher baseline, meaning there’s more room for crowd levels to fall.
When you’re starting with a 1/10 or 2/10 crowd level average, that really isn’t the case. There’s definitely more downside risk of wait times worsening that normal. Personally, I’m expecting the status quo to be more or less maintained for the next 3 weeks, but who knows. Wait times could spike slightly as “word gets out” about low crowds, or there could be more of a drop-off as even fewer school districts have breaks. Stranger things have happened.
However, there’s some variability to all of this in the historical data, and the first 3 weeks of May are close enough together that things like weather or attraction downtime are enough to move the needle. Generally speaking, all of these weeks are good, with low-to-moderate crowd levels on average. (On average, there’s a 1-2 minute difference in wait times those first 3 weeks. It’s almost statistically insignificant.)
It’s similar for the following week, which is the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend. Although this is the unofficial start of the summer season, Memorial Day typically is not among the worst holidays at Walt Disney World for crowds. It’s a lot like Labor Day, which is the unofficial end of summer.
Ultimately, the coming month should be a great time to visit Walt Disney World, with lower crowds, wait times, and temperatures as compared to June through mid-August 2023. All of this is why May 2023 ranks as the #3 month of the entire year on our Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World.
Looking forward to June and July 2023, I don’t have nearly as much confidence in the crowd calendar. As noted previously, Walt Disney World hasn’t experienced a “normal” summer in several years. Last year, the second week of June ended up being the peak, which was due to rising oil/gas prices. Before that, the resumption of normalcy followed by the COVID-comeback threw a monkey wrench into late summer crowds. COVID is a non-factor for Summer 2023, but gas prices remain a big wildcard this year.
Beyond that, I wonder whether Walt Disney World wait times and crowd levels will stay lower for longer. Perhaps this is what the exhaustion of pent-up demand really looks like; maybe consumers are finally changing their spending habits; it’s possible rising prices on everything have finally done their damage. Any or all of this could result in more of a summer slump. We’ve heard unsubstantiated rumblings suggesting that might be the case over the months to come, but nothing to conclude that crowds will stay this low. We shall see–it’ll be interesting to watch!
Are you visiting Walt Disney World during the May 2023 shoulder season before summer break arrives? Have you visited in the past during the month of May? Were you in the parks during the second half of April? What did you think of the crowds? Any parks, times of day, or days of the week noticeably better or worse than the others? Did you find Saturday and Sunday to be better than the ‘heart’ of the week? If you’ve visited in past weeks following spring break, did you notice a big difference in crowd levels? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!