Summer 2022 Crowds Rebound at Disney World

After a surprisingly slow start to the month, summer crowds have rebounded at Walt Disney World. This wait times report covers ride & daily data for July 2022 at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering commentary.

We’ll be blunt with you: this crowd report isn’t nearly as “exciting” as the last one. It’s always more interesting when something extreme or unexpected happens, like wait times dropping for the Fourth of July holiday week. That’s normally the midway point of the summer season, the peak of crowds that grow gradually up until that holiday and decrease thereafter.

By contrast, a continuation of the status quo or slight change is not nearly as remarkable. We could say that there was an unanticipated increase to Walt Disney World crowds! Technically, that would be accurate–but it’d also be a bit disingenuous. If everything is huge or surprising news, nothing is. Just trying to manage expectations here; this crowd update is still interesting, but more for the subtle nuances than anything big.

Anyway, after the slowdown to end June and start July, our expectation was that crowd levels would continue to gradually trend downward in the following weeks. We figured they’d continue to do so until mid-August when schools go back into session and they’d plummet to off-season lows. That’s the beginning of the off-season and the unofficial start of Halloween and fall at Walt Disney World; it’s always less busy than the summer and holiday seasons.

Our basis for this expectation was that the trend that had already started to play out. Plus, we assumed that various obstacles to summer travel (e.g. high airfare and gas prices, flight delays or cancellations) and pent-up demand fizzling out would continue causing a slowdown. However, that hasn’t really been the case in the couple of weeks since Independence Day.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the data to take a look at July 2022 wait times 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.

The month started slow, exactly on par with May. Since then, wait times have started to trend up slightly, but not to a significant degree. Wait times are now 3 minutes higher on average.

With the week by week view, we can see that wait times increasing since the Independence Day holiday two weeks ago. To the extent that this crowd report is “surprising,” it’s that the last two bars don’t continue the downward trend that began in mid-June.

In a normal year, the beginning of July would be the peak of summer season, with numbers gradually increasing from late May up until then and gradually decreasing from then until early August. That’s not what we’re seeing here–wait times have largely plateaued in the last month.

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

As you can see, actually daily wait time data has been up and down in the last 30 days, elevated above May but below the mid-June peak.

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

Magic Kingdom crowd levels continue to be all over the place. The range here is 3/10 to 9/10, with no discernible day-of-week patterns for the highs and lows. The most common crowd level has been 6/10 in the last month.

This is more or less consistent with our anecdotal observations of congestion and wait times in Magic Kingdom. While posted waits have been high for plenty of attractions, actual wait times are quite manageable.

More significantly, the fireworks doubleheader at Magic Kingdom has significantly helped with crowds for Disney Enchantment and the post-fireworks park exodus and transportation woes. As discussed in that post, we strongly recommend staying for the 11 pm showing of Disney Enchantment–it’s the least crowded we’ve seen fireworks during normal ops in ages!

Here are the specific averages for the month of July 2022:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 82 minutes
  • Peter Pan’s Flight: 72 minutes
  • Splash Mountain: 66 minutes
  • Jungle Cruise: 65 minutes
  • Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater: 55 minutes
  • Space Mountain: 52 minutes
  • Meet Cinderella: 46 minutes
  • Haunted Mansion: 46 minutes
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 46 minutes

The average Magic Kingdom wait time for the month so far is 36 minutes, which is still down significantly as compared to last month–about 10 minutes per attraction as compared to the June peaks.

That amounts to an hour of time saved over the course of 6 rides, assuming consistent wait time inflation between June and July.

Animal Kingdom is also all over the place, punctuated by a sharp spike last week.

It’s really difficult to explain some of the discrepancies in crowd levels at Animal Kingdom. The busiest day in the last two weeks, July 12, had an average wait time of 59 minutes. On July 17, that average was only 38 minutes.

The only plausible explanation for the spike is that it was Cow Appreciation Day, a holiday celebrated by billions of bovine enthusiasts the world over. They likely descended upon Animal Kingdom to pay their respects to the lovable livestock, despite the gentle giants egregiously not being represented at Animal Kingdom. This explanation totally checks out–please don’t contest it.

Here are the attraction averages for July 2022:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage: 99 minutes
  • Na’vi River Journey: 67 minutes
  • Kali River Rapids: 56 minutes
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris: 48 minutes
  • Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost: 43 minutes
  • Expedition Everest: 41 minutes
  • Dinosaur: 41 minutes

As a whole, Animal Kingdom wait times are higher than in the last month than earlier in the year. The likely explanation is that people are staying longer in Animal Kingdom thanks to the reimagined Finding Nemo musical and character meet & greet location. Kali River Rapids is also more popular in the summer months, and Expedition Everest was not back for all of spring break season.

Over at EPCOT, wait times have once again been a wild of a ride–but a ride that is generally dropping.

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.

These trends didn’t budge at all for the start of the 2022 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, the park’s biggest event of the year. We were in EPCOT every single day between July 13 and 18, and were somewhat surprised by just how pleasant the park was from a congestion perspective. Some food booths had long lines, but most did not.

As compared to the start of this year’s previous two festivals, this one was relatively low-key. Even taking the hot weather into account, it’s definitely not what I was expecting. In fact, this whole summer at EPCOT since Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has been less “intense” that I would’ve predicted back in April.

Honestly, this summer at EPCOT feels anticlimactic. While that’s not a term I’d use to describe the quality of Cosmic Rewind (a ride we both love), it is one that I think works for the 2022 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, too. So much feels recycled from the last few years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if locals are less excited about this year’s event.

Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:

  • Frozen Ever After: 70 minutes
  • Test Track: 66 minutes
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 63 minutes
  • Soarin’ Around the World: 48 minutes
  • Mission Space: 42 minutes

Frozen Ever After is now firmly in the top slot, with the “new ride smell” apparently having worn off Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Once again, the most consistent park. In the last few days, wait times have ticked up, but it remains to be seen whether this is the start of a trend or just a brief jump. As has been the case for the last several months, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is manageable if you arrive early, stay late, and avoid popular attractions during the middle of the day.

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

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 110 minutes
  • Slinky Dog Dash: 92 minutes
  • Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 91 minutes
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 73 minutes
  • Toy Story Mania: 68 minutes
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 62 minutes
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 59 minutes
  • Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 41 minutes
  • Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 40 minutes
  • Alien Swirling Saucers: 38 minutes

While wait times are down from their peaks earlier this spring and summer, Disney’s Hollywood Studios still has the most attractions with wait times averaging over an hour. This is common, and one reason why it’s considered a top-heavy park.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s average is still around half what it previously was, down from over 100 minutes to under an hour. At present, it’s again operating at full capacity, with one side of the refurbishment that took the ride down to half-capacity finished. It’s unclear when work on the other side will begin, but our hope is that it doesn’t start until the off-season.

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 the last three weeks have seen a sharper increase. Universal is actually much more interesting from this perspective–why was the Fourth of July slow, and why have wait time averages shot up 10 minutes in the two weeks since then?!

My perception of mid-July crowds at Walt Disney World has actually been better than earlier this month. Obviously, that’s entirely anecdotal and no one can have a full picture of Walt Disney World crowds across all 4 parks. This is why we trust the wait time data over what we observe or others report.

It’s impossible for us to be everywhere at once, and hard to know whether we’re in a pocket of congestion, what efficiency issues exist, and whether guests are disproportionately doing attractions or loitering about. It’s possible to get repeatedly lucky or unlucky, and two people visiting the same park on the same day may have very different opinions about the degree of crowdedness.

We’ve mentioned all of this before, but figured it’s worth reiterating, as these posts tend to garner a lot of conflicting feedback on social media. Some recent visitors claim the parks were busier than they’ve ever seen, others visiting during the same stretch say they were blissfully uncrowded. There’s no reason to believe either is lying–it’s all a matter of perception, luck, frame of reference, etc.

When it comes to the last week, my view is also biased heavily towards Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, as that’s where we’ve spent the bulk of our time. My positive perception is reinforced by the doubling of Disney Enchantment, which dramatically reduces congestion but not wait times. Likewise, I expected EPCOT Food & Wine Festival crowds to be worse than they were, which also had no bearing on ride wait times.

In short, if you asked me to guess at crowd levels based on my experience before seeing the wait time data, my numbers would’ve been off by a decent amount.

 

As discussed in our last crowd report, the Disney Park Pass calendar has been yellow most dates, with both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom booked solid for June and the first half of July, just as they were for most of May…and March and April before that.

It’s likely that Walt Disney World is using reservations to manipulate attendance, pushing people towards Animal Kingdom and EPCOT to increase their utilization and normalize numbers across all four parks. That explains why Aside from deliberate manipulation, there’s really no other good explanation as to why Magic Kingdom can have 3/10 and 9/10 crowd levels on two different “fully” booked days.

To that point, several of you have reached out and asked why August 16, 2022 is already fully booked at Magic Kingdom, and whether this is a sign that date will be really busy. That would fly in the face of our recently-updated August 2022 Crowd Calendar, which specifically listed August 16 is being one of the least crowded dates.

There’s absolutely no reason to believe that date will be busy at Magic Kingdom. It’s not a holiday. It’s after Osceola and Orange County schools go back into session. It’s a random weekday in the off-season. It’s possibly the media date for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but that shouldn’t impact crowds in a meaningful way.

One possibility is that this is a mistake (that happens more than you might think with distant dates going yellow before being “restored” to green) and it’ll be corrected. Another is that Walt Disney World has set the capacity cap really low at Magic Kingdom that day in an attempt to redistribute crowds (I don’t follow the underlying rationale, if that’s the case). From our perspective, it remains highly unlikely that this day will be busy in Magic Kingdom.

Ultimately, one of our least “exciting” crowd reports for Walt Disney World in a long time. Crowds have neither spiked nor have they followed the downward trajectory that began late last month. Instead, they’ve plateaued or trended up slightly–demonstrating that summer season isn’t coming to a premature end.

To the extent that wait times are going up, it’s only happening by a few minutes per attraction. These are so insignificant that they could easily be explained away by anything from fewer cancelled flights to slightly better weather drawing in more locals to more wait time inflation. That’s just a partial list of possibilities, but the point is that the changes to overarching trends are so slight that they’re not really meaningful.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the weeks ahead. The plateau will likely continue this week and into next before wait times start declining in early August. The second week of next month will once again be the big turning point, with numbers plummeting as schools go back into session. It’ll be interesting to see whether those predictions end up coming to fruition, or if Walt Disney World crowds and wait times throw us another curveball. We’ll continue monitoring crowds and report back at the start of August.

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!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on crowds in the second half of July 2022 thus far? Predictions for the rest of the month or fall off-season? Think the theory about the Park Pass calendar being used to redistribute crowds across all four parks makes sense? If you’ve visited within the last month, what did you think of crowds? What about posted v. actual wait times? Congestion in Magic Kingdom before, during, or after fireworks? 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!

20 Responses to “Summer 2022 Crowds Rebound at Disney World”
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