Summer Crowds Start to Slow at Disney World
With the arrival of August 2022, we’re nearing the end of summer season and the official start of Halloween at Walt Disney World. This wait times report covers ride & daily data for last month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering commentary about attraction efficiency and predictions for the off-season.
By way of recap, summer crowds followed a familiar pattern–at least in June as wait times increased gradually over the course of the month. Our expectation heading into summer was that Independence Day would be the peak of the season, with crowd levels gradually trending downward in the following weeks.
As it turned out, Fourth of July marked the slowest stretch of the summer season. Crowds rose in the week after that, before more or less plateauing mid-month. Here’s a look at what happened in late July and the first couple days of August as schools in the South have started going back into session…
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 last bar is August 2022, which is only two days old at this point, so not exactly indicative of anything.)
Last month started slow, exactly on par with May. After that, wait times increased slightly, but not to a significant degree. The numbers ended up splitting the difference between the prior two months–3 minutes higher than May and 3 minutes lower than June.
With the week by week view, we can see that wait times increased during the two weeks after Independence Day, but then began receding. That probably overstates the differences over the course of the last month–all of these weeks since the Fourth of July have average waits of 40-42 minutes.
Now that schools are starting to go back into session, it’s likely these numbers will drop even further. It’ll be interesting to see whether Walt Disney World is back to May levels by this week or next.
Individual days illustrate mostly the same, but with more bars.
The most interesting aspect of these wait times is the spike July 25-28, followed by a sharp slowdown the final three days of the month. Crowd levels went from 8/10 on July 25 to 3/10 on July 31.
For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom. The same trend is even more pronounced at WDW’s flagship park, going from crowd levels of 9/10 early last week to 3/10 on Friday and Saturday, and 4/10 on Sunday.
If I were looking for a narrative to explain this, it would be a “last hurrah” during the week for those taking summer vacation during the waning days of school breaks, before heading home and getting ready over the weekend. I don’t know whether this actually is the best explanation, but it’s what comes to mind.
Here are the specific ride averages for Magic Kingdom:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 78 minutes
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 70 minutes
- Splash Mountain: 61 minutes
- Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater: 58 minutes
- Jungle Cruise: 57 minutes
- Meet Cinderella: 50 minutes
- Space Mountain: 45 minutes
Most notably, Jungle Cruise continues to fall in the rankings.
The spike in Jungle Cruise’s popularity has been a popular topic in the comments of other posts, and this is one we’ve been watching closely. There are a few explanations for this, including the reimagining last year and film featuring national treasure, the Rock. It would not be the least bit surprising if longtime, annual visitors are more inclined to revisit Jungle Cruise to see what has changed. It’s also possible the movie rekindled curiosity and/or first-timers are expecting a tie-in.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what Disney did with the Jungle Cruise additions. Betting big on monkey madness was an objectively good decision. You do Pirates of the Caribbean first, and then walk next door to Jungle Cruise, which has twice as long of a posted wait time. The only logical conclusion is that it has twice as many Dwayne Johnson Audio Animatronics as PotC has Johnny Depp (or at least one really big “Rock Robot”). Instead, you’re greeted by a plethora of primates and a bunch of puns.
Another possibility is attraction efficiency, or lack thereof. Len Testa recently shared work by TouringPlans‘ researchers suggesting that Jungle Cruise was operating way below its theoretical hourly ride capacity. I talked to Len about this, and he said there was some conflicting info from skippers–but the conflict is seemingly one of degree. Regardless of that, I think the observation probably stands–Jungle Cruise is not operating at or even close to 100%.
Now, don’t go putting on the tin foil hat and speculating about the same thing happening with all other attractions just yet. While it’s possible that Walt Disney World is purposefully reducing efficiency to increase wait times and push people towards buying the Genie+ service, it’s worth noting that Jungle Cruise is at least somewhat unique.
Jungle Cruise is a labor-intensive attraction due to the skippers and the slower loading process. A shortage of skippers or newer Cast Members who aren’t as adept at quickly loading boats could both result in fewer guests riding the attraction per hour. The latter part is true at other attractions–newer Cast Members don’t dispatch ride vehicles as quickly, thereby lowering operational efficiency–but not the former.
In other words, other attractions could be experiencing this same phenomenon, albeit not to this degree. It would be less a deliberate decision by management and more a result of fewer seasoned Cast Members. (Walt Disney World definitely is not intentionally short-staffed–that would be the equivalent of dodging dollars to pick up pennies.)
Oh, and it’s also a near-certainty that wait times at Jungle Cruise are being inflated, but that’s true across the board and has been for a while. There’s no reason for us to believe that Jungle Cruise is any better or worse on this front, but the gap between posted and actual wait times does seem to be larger than normal right now. Whether this is intentional to push Genie+ or a result of less predictability due to the myriad operational challenges is likely in the eye of the beholder.
(My “consistently cynical” take is that it is not nefarious. Walt Disney World has a lot of problems stemming from shortages, insufficient resources, and employee turnover. While certain root causes are self-inflicted, the negative guest-facing outcomes are largely not by design. See also Hanlon’s Razor.)
We spent a lot of time analyzing Jungle Cruise wait times, but the “good” news is that we can mostly breeze through the rest of this. Nothing else from the wait time data is nearly as interesting.
Animal Kingdom follows the same pattern as Magic Kingdom in the last week-plus.
Here are the attraction averages for Animal Kingdom:
- Avatar Flight of Passage: 75 minutes
- Na’vi River Journey: 69 minutes
- Kali River Rapids: 51 minutes
- Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost: 42 minutes
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 41 minutes
- Dinosaur: 30 minutes
- Expedition Everest: 29 minutes
It’ll be downright hilarious if Walt Disney World actually goes ahead and moves Expedition Everest back to Individual Lightning Lane status. It’s the 7th most popular attraction in a park with very few attractions!
Over at EPCOT, wait times remain low.
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. Nevertheless, 2/10 for a Sunday during the summer of Cosmic Rewind’s launch and Food & Wine Festival is not exactly a great showing for EPCOT.
Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 85 minutes
- Test Track: 76 minutes
- Frozen Ever After: 71 minutes
- Soarin’ Around the World: 53 minutes
- Mission Space: 46 minutes
These times for headliners at EPCOT are actually up. However, the supporting player attractions are almost all at 15 minutes (and walk-ons for much of the day, in actuality), which really drags down the average.
Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Once again, the most consistent park. After a busy start to last week, wait times have receded at DHS. 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: 103 minutes
- Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 89 minutes
- Slinky Dog Dash: 80 minutes
- Toy Story Mania: 67 minutes
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 67 minutes
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 58 minutes
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 57 minutes
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 39 minutes
- Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 38 minutes
- Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 38 minutes
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.
(This is a good illustration of how a reduction in ride capacity impacts wait times. Obviously, the underlying reason for Tower of Terror’s up-and-down wait times differs from Jungle Cruise, but the end result is similar.)
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 there was a bit of a bump towards the end of July before the August slowdown started.
There’s a lot more yellow on the Disney Park Pass calendar since last week’s post: No, These Dates Won’t Be Busy at Walt Disney World. That’s worth reading for some theories as to why reservations filled up first for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. In a nutshell, it’s more of the same–manipulating attendance and allocating resources (staffing).
It’s especially interesting that weekends are not filling up as quickly as weekdays, despite Saturday and Sunday being historically busier during the early fall off-season. To us, this suggests that Walt Disney World is scheduling more Cast Members on the weekends, thereby increasing attendance caps to levels exceeding organic demand. (Just a working theory–could be wrong.)
Aside from attractions like the aforementioned Jungle Cruise, staffing woes have a disproportionate impact on dining. While it does impact operational efficiency at other attractions (see above), that may not be enough to register in wait time data. However, you could wait longer for your Mobile Order to be ready and fewer registers might be open in gift shops or EPCOT festival booths, etc. All of that impacts the guest experience, but would not be evident from the wait time data in crowd reports like this. (Again, just a working theory that could be wrong–
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of weeks with crowds at Walt Disney World. Southern school districts have already started going back into session; several major ones including Atlanta and the Gulf Coast had their first days on August 1 (more return on August 4). In Central Florida, both Osceola and Orange County schools go back into session on August 10.
Consequently, our expectation is that this week continues to slow, with an even more pronounced drop-off next week. The following week should see an even sharper drop, heralding the unofficial start of the fall off-season at Walt Disney World. That should be good enough for average wait times in the 33 to 35 minute neighborhood, or around 4/10 on the crowd calendar. That would be about on par with the lows of this May and the highs of last August.
We’ll see whether the degree to which those predictions end up being accurate, or if Walt Disney World crowds and wait times throw us another curveball. We’ll continue monitoring crowds and report back in mid-August after the first couple Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights.
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Thoughts on late summer crowds at Walt Disney World? What about attraction inefficiencies like those described at Jungle Cruise? 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? 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!
After way too many trips from the UK from the late 80’s to maybe a decade ago, we haven’t done a lengthy Orlando trip for a LONG time so your site has proved not only amazingly helpful but also proven to enhance excitement levels !
Whilst we’re looking to take onboard many of your hints & tips the one thing we were still a little unsure about is how the extended evening hours affect crowd levels. We’re heading over on 27 Aug for 2 weeks and know our 2nd week in particular SHOULD be quiet & whilst I know the MK will be very quiet on the days where it closes early for the Halloween event, really want to spend some time after-dark at MK & would prefer to just head over for most of the day however if it’s expected to be busier due to additional Deluxe guests hitting the park , may hop on over later in the day.
Apologies for turning a thankyou into a question by the way !!!
Hey Tom— you had guessed that WDW might bring back new APs on August 7th. Any additional thoughts on this?
We were just there last Friday – Sunday and were pleasantly surprised at how NOT crowded the parks were. We visited all four parks – even Epcot on Friday and Sunday for Food & Wine – and didn’t have to fight crowds like we have in previous visits. We used Genie+ and park hopped every day and never had to wait over 15 minutes for any ride. We either got the virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind (Group 35) or purchased it. We also followed your advice, Tom, and arrived at Epcot 20 minutes before park opening via Skyliner and walked over to the Rat ride. Next, we rode Test Track and Mission Space – all before or right at park opening. We finished all the rides we wanted by 11:00 so then headed over to World Showcase and started drinking/eating. On Sunday, we also arrived about 20 minutes early to Hollywood and rode Rockin Roller three times in a row as a walk on, then did Mickey and Minnie, Toy Story Mania, met Sulley, then rode our first Genie reservation of Tower of Terror. I made the next Genie reservation as soon as we tapped in. I had studied all of your posts, Tom, and it worked beautifully. We also got Falcon using Genie and purchased RotR.
One concern that we discussed with several cast members was the lack of people dining at table service restaurants. Even the cast members said they were unsure of the causes. Was it Disney manipulating the Park Pass system? Guests cutting back on dining spending? In our previous trips, these restaurants were bustling busy, but lots of empty tables now. These include Rose & Crown for lunch on Friday, Liberty Tree for lunch on Saturday – REALLY DEAD – they were asking for walk ups and we overheard families’ shock at getting a walk up table. We asked our server who has worked at Disney for 20 years and he said that this summer has been really slow at Liberty Tree. Mama Melrose’s for lunch and Le Cellier for dinner on Sunday were also not at all busy. Just tables here and there with guests. Le Cellier was especially dead. The ONLY two busy restaurants we experienced were Be Our Guest on Friday night and Flying Fish Saturday night. Oh, and Olga’s was rocking on Sunday – so much fun! Tom, do you have any ideas on why table service restaurants are slower than normal?
I’ve noticed something similar with table service restaurants (and especially night-before or morning-of ADR availability) since about May…and I’m not really sure what’s up. It’s definitely more pronounced at some restaurants than others, but it’s still nothing like last year through this spring.
My assumption has been that the Disney Dining Plan would return once restaurants started having excess capacity, but that hasn’t happened yet. It’s only going to get worse (or better, from a guest ADR perspective) in the next couple months, so I’m not sure what they’re waiting on at this point. Maybe projections are looking better for the holiday season, so they’re waiting that out?
Good news for my mid-August trip 🙂 Although I have been stalking a Le Cellier ADR this week and see very little last minute availability. If that fails, I’ll be hoping for a walk up at noon.
Very interesting. Am planning a fall trip with just my husband and was initially looking forward to all our future sit down restaurants without our picky eater offspring. First visit without dining plan too. After some research we will have way fewer sit downs than imagined. Why spend so much money on many limited menus which may conflict with day of ride reservations?? Counter service offerings seem to have upped their game in terms of variety.
The only reason I would add additional sit down dining is if I read the parks become really crowded again. Table stalking with a tray of food is not fun.
Thanks for the park update.
Updated news: Expedition Everest, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After and Space Mountain will be included via Disney Genie+ service and will not be included as an individual Lightning Lane selections. Disney has updated the line-up today to keep these attractions within Genie+, meaning they will not return to Individual Attraction purchase from August 7.
You said wait times seem lower during the weekends at Epcot due to F&W. Any thoughts on which days to do DHS and Epcot on Thurs Aug 18 or Fri Aug 19 if I won’t be doing many of the food booths during F&W? Currently I moved Epcot to Thursday to avoid Friday F&W crowds.
Not Tom but I think Thursday at EPCOT is the right call. While wait times may drop on weekends when the locals are all at the festival booths, getting to and from those attractions can be a nightmare. The pathways will all be filled with people just hanging out and make the park feel a lot more crowded than the wait times suggest. (I believe historically Friday during the day isn’t that bad and it gets worse after people are finished with work, but I think the park reservation system has cut down on that.)
They just announced only 4 individual lightning lanes at DW. That is good news. Guardians, Rise, Avatar, and Mine train.
I assume that means when Tron opens- mine train will be back to normal as well.
Back when I was sure TRON was opening earlier rather than later, I figured there’d be an announcement this weekend about it replacing Space Mountain as the MK’s second ILL. Seems unlikely now!
(Meant as a reply to Antoine. Sorry for that mistake, I shall think of some on topic questions about Disneyland on those posts to balance things out over the next week or so.)
I agree that there’s got to be multiple things going with the Jungle Cruise, but I’d love to swim around in Len Testa’s old data just to see if it’s more popular with same day reservation systems than 60+ day reservation systems. I just expected to see more things replicate patterns we saw under paper FASTPASS.
Got to disagree with him on one point. If it were an intentional plan, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to run one less train on BTMR, but only the JC is showing increased lines consistently in the MK. Most days that seems to be how they start operations there, so they just wouldn’t add the final train in there.
The simple explanation for the inflated wait times in MK – and really in all parks – is the addition of a deliberate time buffer to manage guest expectations. Promise low and deliver high is the old saying. Probably their OG strategy for years but now more pronounced. Why continue to do this when WDW hasn’t shown much regard for guest satisfaction lately? Guest relations is swamped with Genie+ complaints and problems. WDW doesn’t want to – or maybe can’t – hire more staff to deal with ride wait time complaints and missed ADR windows. Re the ILLs, I suspect the rides will revert for at least a month to test the waters and see if some newbie guests unaware of slow wait times will bite and pay the money up front. Revenue is revenue. Changing it back a few weeks later seems silly and convoluted. But what else is new. Par for the course with WDW.
We go on 18th and are hoping for quieter queues but do you think Disney will manipulate staffing to keep queues longer to encourage more to buy genie+? I am going to do my very best not to use this!
They should remake Jungle cruise in AK based off of new movie- fits theme of park. Then a new ride in MK spot. AK really needs some rides- we are considering skipping it in December for an extra day at HS.
Hi, I’m just wondering if the discount offers for Oct through Dec have been brought up. I kno in previous post it was hoped it would be released in mid July but I don’t think nothing has come about yet.
Still excited for hopefully low wait times from August 26 to September 2. Also hoping that the ILLs don’t actually revert, but I guess we’ll see in a few days!
We are there on the same exact dates, and thankfully, rides are not moving back to ILL. Yippee! Have a great vacation!
“Tower of Terror’s up-and-down wait times” Pun intended?
Thanks for the recap Tom! Awesome as usual.
On another topic, no words on what Disney will do with the rides that were moved to genie +?
Seems it’s going to be reverted to ILLs? :/
It’s looking like it at this point, but I’m still expecting the change to be made permanent in the coming days for at least some of those rides. Expedition Everest and Space Mountain have no business being ILLs, and EPCOT shouldn’t have three. One per park seems sensible to me, but who knows if they’ll do what makes sense.
I would totally agree with you.. I mean DHS why not.. but MK and AK seems kind of ridiculous. Wouldn’t change a ton I would assume if they revert anyways as I don’t see a ton of people buying ILLs, therefore making regular queues moving faster anyways? But it wouldn’t be the first time Disney World is making very questionable moves, let’s just cross our fingers here 😉
Waiting on this too, going on a couple weeks. If they move a bunch of stuff back to ILL, I’ll be less likely to buy Genie+. Also crossing my fingers Guardians remains virtual queue a few more weeks, I’m worried they’ll change that at the same time they make whatever changes they are planning after August 7th.