Our May 2021 at Walt Disney World guide offers a free crowd calendar, weeks to visit & avoid, weather, new attraction openings & closures, and the kickoff of summer. All of this, along with other info & tips for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. (Updated April 12, 2021.)
We like the month of May at Walt Disney World. For most people, earlier in the month is going to be better. However, even right around Memorial Day weekend, crowds at Walt Disney World aren’t nearly as bad as you might expect–discussed in more depth in the crowd calendar section below. We’ve had wonderful visits during May in terms of weather, crowds, and entertainment.
The other good news is that May sees a reduced slate of refurbishments, longer park hours, and only moderate crowds. Most schools are still in session during May, so crowds are typically fairly uniform for most of the month. While a lot is still up in the air for May 2021 during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World–including whether fireworks will return for summer–we do have a pretty good idea of what to expect…
There’s actually a lot more upside to May, especially as compared to other summer months…
May Weather at WDW
Our experience has taught us that the biggest make or break for May is the weather. I think that’s true when traveling to Walt Disney World during this time of year, in general. Low temperatures for May range from 64 to 70 degrees, with highs averaging 85 to 89 degrees. Those are just averages–temperatures in the 90s and high humidity aren’t unheard of.
As demonstrated by the “comfortable” band on this page for May, weather is generally on the upper end of nice (like you cold weather climate folks expect from a Florida vacation). It can creep into “unpleasant” territory with some regularity, with it being warm and above 64% of the time in May.
The potential for unseasonably hot weather in May is demonstrated with weather forecasts from last year that regularly topped out above 95 degrees and 75% humidity. Days like like make May a little questionable in terms of weather, but if you’re looking at a summer vacation and it comes down to May versus June, July, or August, May is by far the safest option. So there’s that upside.
While not technically weather, May is the first month of the year that you can get your money’s worth if you’re staying at Yacht or Beach Club. Technically, you have to spend 22.7 hours per day in Stormalong Bay (sorry, we don’t make the rules) to get appropriate bang for your buck, so at least the hotter weather helps with that!
May Special Events at Disney World
Throughout May, you can enjoy the 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival; this annual event will run for the entire month of May 2021, ending on July 5, 2021. Flower & Garden Festival features marketplace food booths, gardening entertainment, and beautiful ambiance to Epcot. While it’s not for everyone, it’s one of my favorite events of the year at Walt Disney World…and I don’t even enjoy gardening.
Normally, Memorial Day weekend is the official kick-off of summer for Walt Disney World. For Summer 2021, we don’t anticipate a big celebration. For one, it’s likely physical distancing and face mask rules will remain in place for the summer months–however, we’ve already seen these rules relaxed recently and more could change by Memorial Day. For another thing, Walt Disney World will be gearing up for the big 50th Anniversary that’s slated to begin in Fall 2021.
Expect temporary shows, entertainment, and other offerings to help give Walt Disney World a mild summer boost. We already know that Festival of the Lion King will return at Animal Kingdom. It’s likely other stage shows will return, and perhaps a nighttime spectacular or two. Don’t get your hopes up, though.
May REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS
In terms of other attractions that will be closed during May, check the 2021 Walt Disney World Refurbishment Schedule. Just a heads up: that might be a bit deceptive in terms of actual construction work. There’s going to be a lot of ongoing construction throughout Walt Disney World, and will be for the next several years.
The project that will have the most noticeable impact on the guest experience is the massive reimagining at the front of Epcot, which will eliminate Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods. This project has already kicked into high gear, and will continue through at least 2022. This unprecedented overhaul has led us to address the question Should You Visit Epcot in 2021?
No new attractions or entertainment is expected to debut in May 2021. Walt Disney World announced that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure won’t open this summer, and our expectation is the same for Harmonious.
It’s possible some entertainment and nighttime spectaculars will return at the end of May for the kickoff of the summer vacation season. EPCOT Forever and Fantasmic are possibilities, with Festival of the Lion King being likely.
On the recent attraction front, there’s Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway as well as Star Wars Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the rest of Galaxy’s Edge. Those additions are all over a year old, but are still popular. In fact, the blockbuster Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride has an unprecedented protocol, and is still massively popular over a year after opening.
We highly recommend consulting our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That covers almost every conceivable question you could have about ‘best practices’ for experiencing the attraction, and basic info about it. That procedure will almost certainly remain in place until at least 2022.
May 2021 DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR
We’ll start this free crowd calendar section with the same preface as other months–skip ahead a few paragraphs if you’ve already read it. There’s no color-coded crowd calendar here because they’re unreliable at this point. If we just had a visual crowd calendar graphic here, many of you would only look at that and not read the accompanying explanation that covers what you might actually expect. That’d be doing you a disservice.
While they can be useful tools, crowd calendars are but one small piece of a much larger puzzle. Crowd calendars are less and less reliable due to how Walt Disney World manipulates attendance patterns, staffing, closures, and ride capacity.
Disney doesn’t release official attendance numbers, so crowd calendars use things like school schedules, airport traffic statistics, hotel pricing & occupancy, and other indicators as proxies for crowds. For years, this approach worked and made crowd calendars reliable. Walt Disney World attendance followed an identifiable pattern that tracked with the aforementioned proxies.
More recently, wait times don’t always reflect actual crowds because Disney has become adept and more sophisticated at manipulating both attendance and crowd flow. Think of this as the difference between the actual temperature and the “feels like” temperature, but with crowds. We can still actual crowd and attendance patterns, but not wait times. The latter are what most of you likely care about (the “feels like” crowds), but it’s more difficult to accurately forecast wait times via Walt Disney World crowd calendars.
The entire month of May 2021 is fairly uniform for crowds, with some dates below that and some slightly above average. In a normal year, it would begin below average and get progressively busier over the course of the month. We’re still expecting that general trend to play out, but with higher “feels like” crowds despite lower attendance than normal.
This is due to Walt Disney World’s Park Pass reservations system, which currently limits attendance to 35% of full capacity. We’re starting to see May 2021 reservations booking up for theme park ticket holders and resort guests, particularly for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (see below). The good news it that Walt Disney World has significantly extended park hours for all of May 2021!
We’ve discussed “Revenge Travel” at Walt Disney World in 2021, and have seen that play out over spring break and beyond. As more people are able to work and attend school remotely, our expectation is that the normal dip that occurs between spring break and summer isn’t as pronounced this year–people will continue vacationing in May just as they did in March and just as they will in June.
With that said, it probably won’t be as bad as it looks or sounds. Early May 2021 should still be an attractive time to visit, with mostly average crowds. You’re not looking at low crowds, but the parks are still fairly manageable. Weekday crowds until around May 14, 2021 should be moderate. Even on days that are fully booked to 35% attendance, the parks are still pretty manageable–especially as rides have become more efficient.
EPCOT, in particular, will be a great option for the entirety of May 2021 as it will seldom fully book and most locals have gotten their fill of the Flower & Garden Festival. Animal Kingdom is also incredibly pleasant, especially with a late afternoon arrival. Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios require more strategy, but they’re fine if you follow our 1-Day Walt Disney World Itineraries.
Expect a modest spike the following week, and another bump for the Memorial Day holiday on May 31, 2021. With that said, as far as holidays go, Memorial Day still isn’t bad. This is because most schools aren’t off for summer vacation yet, so it’s still the calm before the storm in terms of tourists.
One final question mark is whether Walt Disney World will host big youth sporting events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports that are currently on the calendar. Almost all of these have been cancelled for 2021 thus far, but there are signs these events will be going forward in the future. If so, there are cheer and dance summit events that could potentially spike crowds April 30 to May 2, 2021; May 6-10, 2021; and May 13-15, 2021.
May PRICING & DISCOUNTS
In terms of promotions, May is typically slim pickins’ for promotions. As of right now, the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is not available for May 2021. It almost certainly will not be released before Fall 2021, either. However, there is the “Spring Into Magic” discount of up to 35% off hotel rooms, which, despite the name, is valid through July 10, 2021.
Otherwise, when it comes to pricing, May is fairly average prior to Memorial Day weekend. For 1-day park tickets, May is “regular” season prior to the holiday weekend (read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post for multi-day ticket recommendations to avoid having to deal with seasonal pricing). For hotels, pricing is also typically at the “Regular Season” rate.
Overall, the month of May at Walt Disney World demonstrates that everything is relative. From our perspective, it’s a fairly appealing time to visit Walt Disney World in many regards. Yes, the weather is generally worse than February through April, but park hours are longer, summer entertainment begins to start, new additions have debuted, fewer refurbishments are occurring, and crowds are still manageable.
Plus, if you’re comparing weather to the summer months that follow, May is actually significantly better. (See, it’s all relative.) For this reason, if you’re looking at visiting during the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day), the end of May is actually one of our top picks. In other words, if you’re limited to traveling during the summer and May is an option, it’s when we recommend visiting Walt Disney World then!
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!
Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts on the month of May at Walt Disney World? Are you looking forward to Summer 2021 at Walt Disney World? Do you like to visit in May? 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!