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.
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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!
Our fall trip has been paid off for awhile. Our winter trip is definitely in jeopardy. I wonder how many people fully paid off their July vacations before inflation really hit hard?
I’m disenchanted with the discounts and royally bummed no winter discounts have been posted yet. I’m a die hard fan and passholder but I’m needing some motivation to drop cash on another vacation. I’m not seeing a good draw.
One thing I found strange when I visited Epcot last Saturday (9th July) was that standby time posted for Frozen Ever After in the morning around 9am was 45 minutes but it was actually a walk on. I was on the boat within 5 minutes. How can there be such a discrepancy? I did hear a rumour that Disney were inflating wait times to encourage people to purchase Genie+?
Being local I can speak to the Food & Wine Festival’s diminished appeal this year. I think it’s a shame they didn’t come up with some refined and lighter fare for the summer months. Does anyone want Hot Cheesy Soup (which is delicious, but not for the summer), salty heavy fries (read your review, sounds like a no go) and Gnocchi (which is inedible all the time) on a hot summer day with feels like temps well into triple digits? Yuck! It used to be such a great opportunity to try some unique and special things.
Data like this makes me understand why WDW feels justified in keeping the reservations system, given how unpredictable crowds seem to have been. (I don’t like it, but at least I can understand it better.)
It looks like Universal had a lot of extra Fourth of July entertainment on and around the actual date. Perhaps they sucked up some of the visitors who otherwise would be in line and captured in the data?
We were at Disney last week of June and 1st week of July 2022 and were pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds. We did Absolutely Everything at all 4 parks without Genie or Lightning Lanes (except Test Track and meeting Sulley which were accidental oversights) Never queued more than half an hour for anything. We also got dining reservations everywhere we wanted including Space 220 and Oga’s and the Hoop de Doo. Cost a fortune but a good first Disney experience. Such a relief after reading all the online negativity!
The only thing that was unpleasantly squashy was the Magic Kingdom fireworks which we never managed to get a decent in-park view of…. So good to hear they’re making changes to that!
The Maasai cattle would like to have a word.
And if you get bored waiting in line at the Magic Kingdom, there is always the family brawls to keep you entertained.
When you show wait times, is that the average only for standby? Or does it also average in the shorter wait times for people using Genie+?
It’s my understanding that the wait time stats being presented only include the standby times.
That’s posted wait time data that’s pulled directly from Walt Disney World’s system. There’s no way of measuring actual wait times or Lightning Lane waits at scale, unfortunately.
It seems like late fall discounts are typically out by now. Do you believe there won’t be any offered in 2022?
Based on past precedent, they should’ve come out last week or this week. However, WDW has deviated a lot from precedent in the last couple of years, so I think it’s too quick to jump to any conclusions. Things have been slowing lately, so I would fully expect fall/holiday season discounts. The big question is whether there will be a general public offer or not.
I moved our third week of September trip to the Last week of August. I hope that was the right call. It seems like there are bunch of great ADRs still available for the 26th-2nd. Do you remember what it was like last year? A low crowd is everything when you have to wait in line with a 3yr old. Even with Genie+. Also, MNSSHP on Friday the 26th or Tuesday the 30th? This is our first time attending the party. 🙂
P.S. Thank you for the Summer Amazon Check List, Tom!
Last year was dead, but that also coincided with the Delta variant and reinstated mask rules, both of which caused a lot of cancellations.
I’d still expect it to be pretty slow during that stretch, but probably not like last year.
You are right about it all being a matter of perspective. We were there July 9-13 and while it was busy it was no where near as crowded as Spring Break 2019 (my last visit). So didn’t think it was terrible. We were able to do 95% of the stuff we had wanted to do, especially using Genie +. The only things we weren’t able to do was not necessarily because of crowds but because the rides “temporarily “ closed but did not come back up before park closing and we had put them off until the end of the night. Looking at you test track and seven dwarves mine train.
We arrived 07/15 and we’re here through 07/22. Magic Kingdom felt crowded. Peter Pan over an hour wait, it’s a small world 40 mins. We waited over an hour the other day for Remy in Epcot. Yacht Club and the restaurants are packed (apparently there’s a convention) and buses are full. Hot & crowded!
Who doesn’t love a good bovine holiday? We are doing MNSSHP on august 16, hopefully that won’t be too busy. Thanks for the info!
Thanks, Tom! I’m planning my annual week after Labor Day in September. Will only be there on weekdays and hoping for something similar to last year, but do expect higher crowds. Do you believe the “revenge travel” trend is over and we’ve returned to something more normal?
“Do you believe the “revenge travel” trend is over and we’ve returned to something more normal?”
Honestly, it’s hard to separate what I want to be true with what I think is actually true.
With that said, I don’t think pent-up demand is quite exhausted–the American consumer seems relatively resilient and there are also international visitors who have yet to take make up trips (although the strong dollar might put a dent in that). It also might be the case that some people put off summer trips due to rising airfare or gas costs, and might take those in fall or winter with lower prices. I don’t necessarily think that’ll be a huge number of people, but possibly a non-negligible number.
Regardless, we’re definitely getting closer to normal.
We are headed to Disney during the third week in September. Previously we have only been during the summer or Christmas. What can I expect as far as weather and crowds? I’ve read some but was hoping for some personal experiences compared to peak times.