Slowest Six Week Stretch for Disney World Crowds Since 2021
It’s been over a month since spring break season ended at Walt Disney World, and the unofficial start of Summer 2023 is one week away at Walt Disney World. This post shares recent wait times data, crowd context, what’s likely to happen next with attendance levels, and more.
This is essentially a continuation of the post-spring break attendance trends we first shared in Sharp Shoulder Season Slowdown at Walt Disney World and and Low Pre-Summer Crowds at Walt Disney World. However, a few things have changed since then. For starters, new Annual Pass sales resumed (and have not yet stopped!). More discounts have also dropped, including the latest Florida resident ticket deal.
During the company’s latest earnings call, CFO Christine McCarthy warned of a slowdown at Walt Disney World in the coming quarters to soften the blow to investors. The company also announced 5 Major Improvements for 2024 at Walt Disney World to help entice bookings for next year. Given all of that and the title of the post you’re reading, you probably already know where this is going…
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 30 minutes, May 2023 is the least-busy month of this year–actually, it’s been the slowest month since October 2021!
The month isn’t yet over, but it’s currently tracking 10 minutes on average lower than last month. Keep in mind that wait times plummeted halfway through April (the average was 47 minutes through Easter), so the difference between spring break and shoulder seasons is more like ~15 minutes on average. That’s about an hour saved for every 4 attractions, which is a huge difference.
(Given that crowds are already trending upward and the likelihood of a slight spike for Memorial Day, we anticipating May 2023 surpassing last September by 1 minute–maybe they’ll tie. Either way, much lower than we anticipated for this shoulder season!)
Above is a look at weekly wait times. So far, this week is 2/10, with the five weeks before that being 1/10. This is a slower 6-week stretch than the “slow season” last August and September, which is almost unfathomable.
Now that we’ve shared a couple of illustrative graphs, it’s time for more ‘crowd context.’ Let’s take a look at the monthly graph for the post reopening period:
It might be a little difficult to read, but the graph above covers July 2020 through October 2021. We’re using this timeframe for two reasons. First, it’s the last time Walt Disney World has seen a stretch of crowds as low as they’ve been from mid-April through May 2023.
Second, to illustrate how crowd levels are relative. Note that the scale on the above graph differs from the one above it from the past year. That’s how crowd calendars work–on a rolling basis to the dates around them. They are not anchored to 1971 or 1993 or 2008 wait times–that would be absolutely useless from a practical/planning perspective. Pretty much every single day in 2023 would be 10/10 if we used 2008 or earlier as the baseline.
Point being, if you last experienced Walt Disney World in the post-reopening period, or even in 2017 or during the Great Recession, your baseline expectations and experience probably would be different than someone who visited during holiday weeks during the last year or so.
Not only that, but a ‘low’ crowd levels does not mean that in absolute terms. Even on 1/10 days, the parks will not be veritable ghost towns (for the most part) allowing you to do snow angels on the ground. You will see rides with hour-plus posted wait times. You will encounter areas of congestion. “Uncrowded” at Walt Disney World means something different than it does at the American Dream Mall or Wyoming in The Last of Us.
This type of explanation might work better with examples, so here goes. In response to our last crowd report, we heard complaints that there were still long lines for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and other headliners during the middle of the day.
Going from a 10/10 crowd level to a 1/10 crowd level means you might encounter a 65-75 minute average wait time for popular rides, as opposed to 90-120 minute wait times. Since those numbers are averages, it also means higher peaks and lower lows. Below-average crowd levels does not mean every attraction is always a walk-on!
To illustrate this at an even less extreme level, above is the graph of May 2023 monthly average for each attraction in Magic Kingdom. Below is October 2022. As a reminder, May 2023 is a 1/10 crowd level, whereas last October was 7/10. (Again, note the different scales.)
Another specific problem point is Happily Ever After. A couple people pointed to heavy crowds for the recently-returned nighttime spectacular as evidence that overall crowds are not low. Unfortunately, uncomfortable congestion is the not-so-new normal for fireworks at Magic Kingdom. It was already bad with Disney Enchantment, and has only gotten worse now that the good fireworks are back.
For the sake of illustration, let’s say that there are–on average–40,000 people in Magic Kingdom towards the end of a busy night. On a slower day, let’s say the number is 20,000 people–half the number of a busy day. Now let’s assume that 10,000 people fit on or around Main Street USA.
These are hypothetical numbers…but do you see the problem? Whether it’s a slow or busy night, the number of people wanting to see Happily Ever After exceeds the capacity of the viewing areas on and around Main Street. One is far above capacity and the other is “only” slightly above it. Nevertheless, when a high percentage of guests in the park are concentrated into a small area of Magic Kingdom, that’s going to create crowding, regardless of whether it’s a slow or busy day as a whole.
We saw the same thing last September with Disney Enchantment on some of the slowest days of the entire year. There’s no great solution to this; it certainly doesn’t help that Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a nighttime spectacular, EPCOT Forever isn’t a big draw, and there’s currently only one nightly showing of Fantasmic. All of that consolidates crowds into Magic Kingdom for the evening.
This also happens with regularity during the Halloween and Christmas Parties. Main Street is absolutely packed for the parade, stage show, and fireworks; meanwhile, other areas of the park are absolute ghost towns. (That’s a big reason why Disney introduced the attraction overlays–an attempt to redistribute crowds more evenly across the park.)
The point is that hour-plus waits for headliners or Happily Ever After congestion are not conclusive of crowd levels. Those things would be “bad” just about any day you visit. The difference is in the degree. You may deem a 70 minute posted wait time to be “too long,” but it’s still objectively less than 85 minutes.
It also matters at the margins. On a 1/10 crowd level day, you might encounter a lot of posted wait times at mid-tier attractions that are 15-30 minutes, and end up being walk-ons (or close to it) in actuality. Those same attractions might have actual wait times of 15-30 minutes on busier days and posted wait times of 25-40 minutes. All of that adds up, and does matter.
Anyway, we just wanted to take a minute to provide potentially valuable context and adjust expectations. If you find all of that unpersuasive or implausible or whatever…maybe crowd reports or predictions aren’t for you. Honestly, some people would be better suited to visit with the expectation that Walt Disney World will be busy no matter when they visit. This might be true because their baseline is skewed, they have low tolerance for crowds, etc. Regardless of the reason, they may get excited for 1/10 or 3/10 crowd levels, and find there’s a huge expectations vs. reality discrepancy.
That’s totally fine and understandable. However, just because something isn’t for you doesn’t mean it’s invalid or inaccurate. To contend that Walt Disney World is equally busy every day of the year is flatly wrong. Anyone who visited during the week of Easter 2023 and then again 2-4 weeks later would easily be able to spot the difference.
That’s valuable for planning purposes, as it speaks to how wait times differ throughout a single year–some people can choose when to visit around that. That someone who visited during Easter 2016 and again in mid-May 2023 found crowd levels higher during the latter set of dates is interesting, but not really useful. It just tells me that we need to advance development of time machines. (Then all of the time travelers would go to the older dates for longer hours and lower prices…causing more crowds in the past!)
This is getting too lengthy–let’s briefly turn back to the current wait times data before some predictions for June and July 2023…
Zooming out, we have the resort-wide daily numbers for Walt Disney World.
This shows a drop-off post-Easter. Most days since have been 1/10 or 2/10 on the crowd calendar, with a handful of 3/10 days, and three days that were 4/10. Nothing has really moved the needle on that–not the return of APs, dropping of afternoon reservations, or Florida resident ticket deals. The park by park breakdown doesn’t meaningfully add to this analysis, so we’re going to forgo it this time.
For those wondering how Walt Disney World’s wait times compare to Universal Orlando, the trend is about the same following spring break season. This has also been Universal’s slowest month since last September.
The biggest difference that we’re seeing emerge is that Universal is doing a bit better on weekends and worse on weekdays. Our working theory is that this is due to locals–Universal is slightly overperforming with them and slightly underperforming with tourists, whereas the opposite seems to be true with Walt Disney World. It’s not really a major difference, though. It’s been a slow 6 weeks at both parks, suggesting a slowdown in travel to Central Florida, and nothing unique to either park operator.
Turning to forward-looking crowd forecast, we really don’t have anything to add or modify as compared to our recently-updated 2023 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars or predictions in the last couple of crowd reports. As anticipated, May 2023 has been a great time to visit Walt Disney World.
Shoulder season should continue 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.
Although Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season, it is not typically among the worst holidays at Walt Disney World for crowds. It’s a lot like Labor Day, which is the unofficial end of summer. The reasons for this are relatively simple and straightforward. For one, not every school district is out of session by Memorial Day.
For another thing, families like to spread out their trips and don’t usually travel immediately after the school year ends or right before the next one begins. This is why crowds usually crest around Independence Day, building gradually up until early to mid-July, and declining steadily after that. (At least, that’s the “normal” summer attendance trend–but one we haven’t seen at Walt Disney World since ~2018!)
Ultimately, the next few weeks should continue to be a very good to great time to visit Walt Disney World, with lower crowds and wait times. The lowest of crowds are likely coming to an end, and weather will likely worsen from June through mid-August 2023, but the near-term shouldn’t be too bad.
Looking forward to the “peak” of summer from mid-June through late July 2023…I don’t have nearly as much confidence in the crowd calendar. As noted, 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 and the broader economy are big wildcards this year.
Based on the totality of circumstances, my expectation is that Walt Disney World wait times and crowd levels will stay lower for longer. This does not mean 1/10 or 2/10 crowd levels during the heart of summer season like the parks have been experiencing–it means lower than comparable weeks in the months of June and July during “normal” years.
My basis for this is in looking at all of the “levers” that Walt Disney World is pulling to incentivize visits plus McCarthy’s warning to investors and recent rumblings. All of that, coupled with the broader economy and the likelihood that “revenge travel” is largely finished suggests a summer slowdown is on the horizon.
Unfortunately, it’s been several years since Walt Disney World has had a normal summer, so it’s exceedingly difficult to quantify this on the 2023 crowd calendar. My guess is that most days in June and July 2023, Walt Disney World does not get above 6/10 as a whole, with the peak being around 7/10. Maybe 8/10. It’s really hard to say, and there’s a wide range of possibilities given the circumstances.
If anything, predicting 6/10 average crowds for Summer 2023 feels like erring on the side of higher predictions than what’ll happen, and most days/parks actually won’t break 5/10 for the next two months. I’d rather prepare you for the “worst” and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around. Underpromise and overdeliver…except that isn’t really possible here, since some Walt Disney World fans seem to expect that “average” crowds means it’ll be possible to hula hoop on Main Street during Happily Ever After!
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Are you visiting Walt Disney World during Summer 2023? Have you visited this month or in 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? 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!
We are going to do the week after thanksgiving this year. Do you anticipate holidays will be lower than normal and some people will just postpone their trips to 2024 with all the changes coming?? Thanks for all your advice!
So are we. Just finished making reservations. May was decent crowd-wise but far too hot. We love that week. January, February and March are good too.
Holidays always seem to be strong regardless of the circumstances. So, lower than normal (relative to those same weeks in other years) but still busy as compared to this month.
The week after Thanksgiving was great last year, FWIW.
I wonder if politics could be a factor?
Conservatives disinclined to visit WDW for being too left-wing, and Liberals disinclined to visit Florida for being too right-wing.
Love Disney but I’m seeing this struggle continue without them building new attractions on a yearly basis to attract the guests who show up year after year. I just left in April, with no plans on returning for a few years, because of the lack of headliners in the pipeline. Moana will not be the answer for 2024
Interestingly, complaints about crowds have plagued Disney parks since the first day Disneyland opened. No matter how light the crowds are, someone always wishes a park could have had fewer people that day.
I have a somewhat broader perspective than some, having gone to Disneyland in the 60s as a child, DisneyWorld in the 70s as a teenager, and about every year since as an adult. When you have relatives in Orlando, you end up going at bad times for park visits. While April and February are great for crowds, the relatives want you there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and possibly Easter. Unfortunately, the wildcard is the odd memorial service, which prompted my upcoming visit in early June.
The logic on “feels like” crowd levels is so true. I can’t remember when it was easy to get a spot to watch the fireworks or a parade on Main Street other than when it came right after a big storm that chased away the unprepared.
Here’s hoping for a light park attendance in early June, but it will be a miracle if the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride gets under an hour’s wait.
thinking if these trends hold, immediately after school is out might be the next time we visit in the next couple years
“…some people would be better suited to visit with the expectation that Walt Disney World will be busy no matter when they visit.”
Louder for the people in the back! Some people seem to think they are going to go to what are demonstrably some of the most popular theme parks in the *world* and not ever encounter a crowd. That would be a true Fantasyland!
As a hardcore Disney family, we never take time out of our Walt Disney World trips to spend time at Universal. So when we had the chance for a four night, 5 day getaway, we decided to do Universal all-in, May 9-13. We were amazed, and very pleased, at how short the waits were for our first few days there. The parks seemed not crowded t all. Toward the end of the week and into Saturday, we noticed crowds and wait times increasing, almost entirely because of many large school groups visiting during the day, and a grad night bash that closed both Universal parks at 6:00 pm on Friday. As a teacher, I loved seeing the groups of kids, mostly 5th and 8th graders, during the day. Not everyone might enjoy that, but we did. And it was very easy to get on every ride (Hagrid was still an hour wait, but with a gorgeous queue that moved continuously and an excellent experience at the end, we did not mind). Plus, we took advantage of the free Friday evening by going over to Animal Kingdom Lodge to explore that beautiful property and have dinner at Boma. What a treat! And a reminder to us that, as much as we did enjoy Universal, we always will be a Disney family.
Hi Tom from thee Tokyo parks(rainy and nearly empty in Tokyo Disneyland!) know it’s a bit early but I am planning on potentially going the week after thanksgiving and the week after that(from UK so isn’t a holiday for us but my birthday is on 30 November did the Christmas party at disneyland 2 years ago and Paris lastvyear) Do you think.the slowdown will happen this year given it didn’t other years or will it revert to ‘normal?
I just think with all the various breaks kids have during the year now, and the hatred that so many have for the hot and humid days in FL in summer, summers will stay lower than spring and fall. I almost never get summer bookings for Disney, and i just don’t see this trend going away. People want to be at the beach or in Europe during the summer, and they want to be at Disney during spring fall and winter. Sure some go in the summer, but kids have so many breaks now – fall break, full week at thanksgiving, winter break in February, spring break… most families just don’t ‘need’ to go in summer like they used to 15-20 years ago. Maybe even 10 years ago. That combined with the huge disparity in school start/end dates, the only true “Summer” month anymore is July. In the south, we already got out of school, and go back August 1. In the north, they get out end of June and go back Labor Day. In the middle it seems they get Early June to Late August. All that being said, the only month that everyone in the country gets off together at the same time is July. So in my opinion June and August are also shoulder season, and July is akin to spring break. The only true weeks of insanity that everyone in America gets off and heads to Disney aside from T-giving and Xmas/New Years, are Presidents Day in February. (And most get Columbus Day in October). I wish there was a national database for kids school breaks because it has changed over the years and it would be very telling! May is like total def-con 10 for moms and you can’t throw one more thing into May and make it work for most people between finals, APs, SAT, graduation, kids sports playoffs, weddings, end of season banquets, orchestra concerts, awards nights, I mean it is never ending in May. Ain’t nobody got time for vacation! Haha. I just think these things have changed over the years and we are in a ‘new normal’. But i guess we will only be able to tell in 5 years when we look back at how the 2020’s went! Sorry for writing a book! 🙂
Dave at Your First Visit dot net used to do some pretty exhaustive research into nationwide public school calendars to come up with his ranking of best/worst weeks to visit. It looks like he is still using the same methodology but I don’t know that you would be able to extract “just” the school break component from what he ends up publishing.
We’ve been in WDW since May 3rd, and with rare exception, each day we’ve been somewhat flabbergasted at how low the crowds have been. We’ve been coming to Disney during some part, if not all, of May for several years, except 2020 obvs, and with maybe the exception of May 2021, we’ve never seen it like this. It’s not just the parks, Disney Springs was like a ghost town the evening we were there, and at Fort Wilderness, fully half of the campsites are empty, plus they are closing loops one at a time for a week to install new hook up posts. We’ve never been on a full, SRO bus or boat except once right at closing time. We’ve been able to get last minute ADRs or walkups pretty much anytime we want – but we’re not doing character meals. We got Roundup Rodeo, Space 220, and have seen walk up availability at Oga’s Cantina.
Thoughts on the first week of August? We’ll be there the 1-7. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but it’s the only week that works for us this time. We’re prepared for the heat and possible rainy weather but it would be nice to have reasonable crowds as a tradeoff.
That’s still technically in the summer vacation window, but when crowds are usually on the decline. My guess is below-average at this point, but not truly low. Will definitely have a better idea once mid-June rolls around and we see how bad (or not) wait times are then.
Most of the Southeast will be back in school by August 1, so its definitely better than July. We have gone then and it’s just so insanely hot it takes your breath away. Just be prepared that you must get up early and must take indoor breaks mid-day, whereas in May/June you can get away w/ pushing through. It’ll still be fun and i think so many ppl want to avoid that heat and with school starting it keeps august sort of on the lower side… just my thoughts
We are vacationing in Tampa w twin sons who wanted to go on fishing trips for their HS graduation present. Reserved tonight @ Lowe’s Portofino to enjoy the unlimited Express Passes tomorrow. Went to Tampa Zoo all am on the way over to Orlando just glanced @ MDE dining reservations. I have NEVER!!! in 10 years of trying been able to get Ohana’s dining reservations EVER!!, much less 2 hours before I wanted to go! but that’s what just happened & there were multiple reservations available for Ohana’s & Space 220 today…yes we just went to Ohana’s for the 1st time ever & what a great graduation present!!
Glad to hear you got the ‘Ohana ADR and (it sounds like) had a great meal/experience there!
we are preparing to book for 2024! (so glad we canceled 23 and waited for 24!) I know it’s way too far to postulate……but do you feel booking May 4 through 12 of 24′ will render similar slower patterns as it has this year? My husband and I have never enjoyed the flower and garden festival. We have been every other season!
This time of year is always shoulder season, but it’s usually not *this* slow. So it’s way too early for a credible specific prediction, but “not as bad as spring break or summer 2024” is an accurate one!
Is there any chance the slow down is the direct result of the high costs? Park admission , Airfare, Genie + and LL not to mention soaring food costs. We went in April for 7 days and was almost 7k with everything and we stayed at the Drury in DS.
That’s undoubtedly a contributing factor, but not the exclusive explanation–especially coming down from a very busy spring break just ~7 weeks ago. As noted, crowds are also down at Universal–I’m guessing if we had similar data for non-theme park destinations from around the US, it would reveal similar trends. I think it’s more a matter of pent-up demand ending and consumer spending slowing.
I do think the various guest unfriendly decisions are going to haunt Disney if/when there’s a recession and it tries to pull ‘levers’ to incentivize demand and that doesn’t move the needle enough, but I don’t think that’s the big issue/explanation right now.
Have not been to the parks since before COVID. I am a DVC member who has used my points elsewhere. I am actually anxious about using my phone and the technology that is necessary to go to the parks. I picked this time of the year to almost give my family a fighting chance. I have been reading your blog and watching You Tube videos to prepare. What is 1 piece of advice you would give to the tech averse?
Do Early Entry and (since you’re staying DVC, it sounds) Extended Evening Hours at both MK and EPCOT. With that, you won’t need Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.
Traveling to WDW the last week of August. Are you feeling good about crowd levels for that week? We have tickets for EPCOT after hours and the Halloween party. Good or no? It will just be my 16 year old daughter and myself. What do you think ADR will look like?
Thanks for your insight
Always feel great about crowd levels that week–it’s reliably uncrowded. Weather is what you have to worry about then! ADR availability should likewise be good, but popular restaurants could still be tough–like HEA, demand far exceeds capacity for those year-round.
How do you think hotel availability or lack of availability plays in to this? We ended up booking the Grand Floridian in late June as needed multiple rooms for a family trip and other deluxe were booked. Hotel demand seems high?
Granted, I’m not searching hotel availability constantly, but I haven’t seen many issues with on-site resorts this summer. Grand Floridian and BoardWalk, plus some villas, are the biggest exception to that because they’re undergoing refurbishments and have entire buildings out of commission. Did you have problems anywhere else?
With that said, most guests come from off-site, so on-site hotel bookings aren’t really conclusive of crowd levels, regardless.
I was at Epcot yesterday on a morning whim (yay annual passes again!). Gross heat notwithstanding, we walked into the park at 10:30 and got on Ratatouille with a 35 min wait. Walked onto Soarin. 10 minutes for the land. Walked on Figment. Less than 5 minutes for whatever the 3 Amigos ride is called that my kids love (twice!). If not for it being horribly muggy for mid May we would have hung longer, but all in all that was as mellow as a Sunday can be.
I looked during the middle of the day and saw a lot of attractions <60 minutes yesterday, including the Rate Ride and Rise of the Resistance!
We were there from May 14-20, and while there were crowds and waits, we were able to get on every ride in every park. We did notice that it was a lot less crowded in the evenings on the days we went to AK, DHS, and MK, and we were able to do popular rides with minimal wait times. That being said, as our last visit to WDW was in 2017, I was shocked that the crowd levels were 1/10 or 2/10. There were a lot of people during the day and at HEA and Fantasmic.
“There were a lot of people during the day and at HEA and Fantasmic.”
Probably didn’t help that they’re back down to one showing of Fantasmic per night. That plus EPCOT Forever being less of a draw plus no evening entertainment at Animal Kingdom really consolidates crowds. It would be great if they’d do two showings of HEA per night; even 1/10 or 2/10 crowd levels would support that.
Just got back from 10 days. Were the crowds relatively light? Kinda yes, but not spectacularly so, and any shorter waits were offset by what we consider brutal heat, 92 almost every day, and humidity to match with THIs of 98 and more. Lighting Lane during the day is worth the money under those conditions as our evenings are spent enjoying our favorite on-property restaurants, not in the parks. This was an experiment. In the future, we’ll stick to November, January and February.
“In the future, we’ll stick to November, January and February.”
Sorry to hear that the experiment didn’t go well!
If you already haven’t, I think you can safely rule out September, too. That’s the only other month that might trump this one in terms of wait times, but not only is the heat typically as bad, but you also have hurricanes as a wildcard.
Actually have been toward middle and end of September. Not as bad as this was. Early to mid-May IS supposed to average ten or twelve degrees cooler than it was but with Florida coming up on summer, one is taking a chance then. Can’t win ’em all.
We always joke that the first August/September new arrivals/snowbirds have moved will be their last before they go back. It really is brutal. For us, April and May are not rain months, just blistering hot. June and July are. We even got a discount to install our pool before the “Florida rainy season” which really starts in June. I still went to Epcot last week and MK this week. You just have to be ready for it.