Memorial Day weekend is in the rearview mirror, meaning it’s time to recap May crowds and offer some forward-looking predictions for June 2022 at Walt Disney World. This wait times report covers ride & daily data for the month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering a look forward at what to expect in Summer 2022.
In essence, this is a continuation of our last wait times report, Pre-Summer Slowdown at Walt Disney World, which covered the first half of the month. The main takeaway there was that wait times and crowds were starting to drop, even as Disney Park Pass reservations were booked for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios most dates.
Prior to that, wait times had been consistently elevated since Presidents’ Day. February and March had average wait times of 45 and 46 minutes, respectively. April ended with an average wait time of 44 minutes, but it was really a tale of two months. For those wanting to put those numbers into historical context, the average wait times for the entirety of 2020 and 2021 were 33 and 32 minutes, respectively.
This month was closer to last year than the first few months of this year. Instead of remaining elevated due to pent-up demand and ‘sold out’ park reservations, May will go down as the least-busy month since October when the 50th Anniversary kicked off to surprisingly low crowds.
Now, let’s dig into the data to take a look at May 2022 wait times. As always, all graphs and wait time stats are courtesy of Thrill-Data.com:
We’ll start with the monthly numbers, which pretty much tell the entire story.
The average wait time across all attractions at Walt Disney World dropped from 44 minutes in April to 38 minutes in May. This was the biggest one-month drop since last July to August, when last year’s summer vacation season ending coincided with reinstated face mask rules and the Delta surge (so, not exactly comparable).
Next, weekly wait time averages across the entirety of Walt Disney World.
The bar on the far right is Memorial Day weekend, which was unsurprisingly busier than the weeks before it in May, but still not as bad as the peak of spring break season.
Individual days illustrate mostly the same, but with more bars. I guess that checks out.
Wait times settled into the 5/10 to 6/10 range for the second half of May, which was slightly busier than the first half of the month. All of this is exactly what we’d expect for Walt Disney World’s normal shoulder season between spring break and summer.
For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom.
As with Walt Disney World as a whole, it was a relatively average month for Magic Kingdom–the first with relatively uniform wait times in a while. Most days were between 4/10 and 6/10 on the crowd calendar, which is a relatively insignificant spread. The average wait time on a 4/10 day can be 33 minutes, whereas 6/10 can be 36 minutes.
Note yet another 2/10 day in there, which was May 15. Wait times were atypically low that date due to the park closing at 4:30 pm for a Cast Member Service Celebration. This always (ALWAYS!) happens, as people simply see the significantly early closing time and avoid Magic Kingdom.
It also helped that other sites were warning people to avoid Magic Kingdom on this date, which is objectively bad advice…but great for all of us! I’d consider this missing the forest for the trees. Yes, the park closed several hours earlier than normal, but wait times and crowds were so low that you could accomplish as much (or more) than normal by the early closing time and still have your entire evening ahead of you. We’ll continue alerting you about this days and “warning” you to take advantage of them.
Here are the specific averages for the month of May:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 70 minutes
Jungle Cruise: 66 minutes
Peter Pan’s Flight: 65 minutes
Splash Mountain: 54 minutes
Space Mountain: 46 minutes
Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater: 45 minutes
Meet Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall: 45 minutes
Haunted Mansion: 45 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean: 42 minutes
The average Magic Kingdom wait time for the month was 33 minutes, which is a sharp drop from last month. While there are a few attractions averaging over an hour, nothing is above 70 minutes, which is the high-mark for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Since our last update, Jungle Cruise and the character meet & greets fell a bit, whereas pretty much everything else was up slightly.
That all tracks, as the newness of non-distanced character meet & greets has worn off. Splash Mountain is also getting more popular as the weather gets hotter, and will rise further in tandem with temperatures. Jungle Cruise’s continued popularity surprises us, honestly.
It’s a similar story at Animal Kingdom.
More than any other park, crowd levels fluctuate at Animal Kingdom. This is not a new phenomenon, and reflects the limited ride roster at DAK. When it’s busier, the park is under more strain and wait times spiral. When it’s less busy, the opposite happens.
As covered in our recent post, Animal Kingdom Afternoon Arrival Strategy, these crowds are relatively easy to avoid with proper planning. The same advice there can be applied to early morning arrivals, too.
Here are the attraction averages for May 2022:
Avatar Flight of Passage: 95 minutes
Na’vi River Journey: 69 minutes
Kilimanjaro Safaris: 52 minutes
Kali River Rapids: 40 minutes
Expedition Everest: 34 minutes
Dinosaur: 24 minutes
The few other attractions in Animal Kingdom are all below 20 minutes.
Over at EPCOT, wait times remained low through the first 26 days of May even with the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Unsurprisingly, there was a spike for Memorial Day weekend and Cosmic Rewind’s grand opening. The extent of this was artificially limited by the Disney Park Pass and virtual queue systems. While EPCOT was unquestionably crowded–even the cavernous Connections Cafe couldn’t contain crowds–it wasn’t that bad. Cosmic Rewind’s opening day was only a 6/10, which is not what you’d expect for a blockbuster new thrill ride’s debut.
Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:
Frozen Ever After: 71 minutes
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 69 minutes
Test Track: 58 minutes
Soarin’ Around the World: 30 minutes
Meet Anna & Elsa at Royal Summerhaus: 25 minutes
Mission Space: 22 minutes
Nothing all that bad here, but it’s interesting to see Frozen Ever After surpass Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. We’re not surprised–Frozen Ever After is the better attraction, even as a ‘quick’ reimagining of an existing ride.
Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
DHS is saved for last because it’s usually the worst in both wait times and “feels like” crowds. That’s definitely “less true” with this update, and we don’t have any major complaints about our recent experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
With that said, we are used to the DHS midday misery at this point, and have found ways to work around it (see our Disney’s Hollywood Studios Afternoon Arrival Strategy). If you visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios in May for the first time in 3 years, you would likely have a very different perspective on the park than us. Of course, you’d also be experiencing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Galaxy’s Edge with fresh eyes, so perhaps you’d be even more positive.
Here are ride-by-ride wait times for Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the month:
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 101 minutes
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 101 minutes
Slinky Dog Dash: 85 minutes
Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 64 minutes
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 61 minutes
Toy Story Mania: 60 minutes
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 59 minutes
Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 53 minutes
Alien Swirling Saucers: 41 minutes
Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 36 minutes
Here are a few notes about DHS wait times:
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance shot up a lot in the last couple of weeks. This continues to be the least accurate wait time in all of Walt Disney World due to its downtime and Individual Lightning Lane sales. You might wait half of the posted wait time, you might wait double it.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is so high because it’s operating at half-capacity due to a “stealth” refurbishment. It’ll likely remain at this level through summer. Do it early.
The Monsters, Inc. meet & greet at Walt Disney Presents also has long waits. It’s a great mid-morning option, as most people do it after lunch.
The falling wait times of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway should be viewed as a success story, not a lack of popularity. This attraction is an efficient “people-eater.”
Frankly, I still don’t know how to account for these downright moderate crowd levels given the amount of yellow on the Disney Park Pass calendar throughout the entirety of the month. Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom were booked solid for most of May–just as they were in March and April–which means that they should’ve been just as busy this month as those months. After all, fully booked is fully booked…right?!?
Probably not, actually. That’s not what the wait time data shows, nor was it our experience in visiting DHS or Magic Kingdom this month. All four parks had lower ‘feels like’ crowds, but those two shouldn’t have in light of the Park Pass calendar. And yet, they did.
It’s possible that meet & greets helped better absorb some of the crowds, but those are mostly low capacity. It’s also possible that the longer hours helped better spread out crowds to some degree. Finally, it could be that the difference between yellow and grey means overall attendance is down, and that levels out (to some degree) once Park Hopping starts, leading to lower wait times overall.
Another possibility is that economic reality is starting to set in. This is something about which we’ve been jibber-jabbering for months, discussing how pent-up demand could fizzle out and depleted household savings might result in reductions in travel spending, among other things. When that happens, consumers will return to being more cost-conscious and price sensitive, and attendance will normalize to at least some degree.
We bring this up yet again because there’s an interesting new survey finding that 90% of Americans will consider the price of gas and inflation when making their summer travel plans. Due to higher gas prices alone, a majority will likely take fewer or shorter trips and 33% will cancel travel plans entirely.
These conclusions are unsurprising, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see them quantified–especially when pent-up demand and “revenge travel” are dominating the conversation about summer vacation plans.
If these phenomenons were already occurring in May, cancellations could be the most simple and straightforward explanation for why the crowd calendar dropped to the 6/10 range even as the Park Pass calendar remained mostly yellow. Although most people book Walt Disney World vacations months in advance, last minute travel has been increasing in the last 2 years–and the cost of airfare, driving to Florida, or all of the added/higher costs once at Walt Disney World could be taking a toll already.
With that said, we also don’t want to get hyperbolic or sensationalize this commentary. For one thing, we don’t know if cancellations are up at all. For another, even a slight increase can have an outsized impact on wait time and crowd levels. As noted above, only a few minutes per attraction separates an average day from an above-average one. Even if this isn’t like the “Delta Deluge” of cancellations last fall (and there’s no reason to believe it is), it could have a meaningful impact on attendance, congestion, and wait times.
Looking forward, there’s no reason to expect the next couple of weeks to be much different than the month of May. Although Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and when Florida’s tourist season kicks off, it usually starters slow and gets progressively busier.
Most schools are not out of session yet, and thus, most families aren’t doing big summer vacations yet. That tends to start in the second half of June, and really accelerates around Independence Day. While June is no longer shoulder season, the first half of the month is typically closer in crowds to May than it is to July.
As you can see from the Disney Park Pass calendar above, there are many dates that are yellow–including in those “less busy” first two weeks of June 2022. On its face, that could be cause for concern…but several of these dates have been yellow for a while.
Rather than being concerned about the yellow dates, we’re optimistic that there’s still no grey–and that there are some green dates later in the month. Additionally, most of these yellow dates have availability in at least two parks, which helps with resort-wide wait times once Park Hopping starts.
Ultimately, this month’s numbers ended up not being too bad. May 2022 had healthy crowds aside from Memorial Day weekend, and even that wasn’t awful. Whether intentional as a result of “carefully managed attendance” (Chapek’s words) or unintentional as a result of cancellations, Walt Disney World is hitting the happy medium between uncrowded and unpleasantly crowded, with moderate wait times and congestion.
The big question continues to be: what happens next?! Our expectation is that June 2022 will end up resembling this past month in terms of wait times and crowd levels, with naturally higher demand for the summer season partially offset by increased cancellation due to rising gas prices, inflation, and other factors. We anticipate crowd levels being a tad higher to start June, increasing gradually in the last couple of weeks. In the end, slightly worse than this month, but still manageable and better than July 2022.
Of course, so much remains to be seen. Walt Disney World has been heavily advertising Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind–everywhere from the internet to pre-trailer reels in front of Top Gun: Maverick. It’s entirely possible that we’re putting too much weight on the potential for a slowdown and not enough in the potential for a marketing-induced spike. Given the billions of dollars Marvel films have made at the box office, perhaps that’s an oversight or mistake on our part. We’ll continue monitoring crowds and see how these predictions play out!
Thoughts on crowds in May 2022? Predictions on crowds for June or the duration of Summer 2022? Are you expecting rising gas prices or inflation to meaningfully impact attendance and crowds at Walt Disney World? Think that this upcoming month will end up being more or less busy than May? If you’ve visited within the last month, what did you think of crowds and 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!