Summer Season Crowd Spike at Disney World!

The summer season at Walt Disney World is only 3 weeks old, but already crowd levels are spiking sharply! This June 2022 wait times report covers ride & daily data for the month at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering a look forward at what to expect in July.

Our last two wait times reports covered May, highlighting the pre-summer slowdown playing out in the parks. In typical shoulder season fashion, wait times and crowds were dropping, despite Disney Park Pass reservations being booked solid for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios most dates, plus Animal Kingdom and EPCOT on occasion.

In the end, last month ended up being the least-busy month since October when the 50th Anniversary kicked off to surprisingly low crowds. Consequently, various narratives emerged to explain the slower May: that pent-up demand was fizzling out, airfare and gas prices were causing cancellations, consumer-unfriendly practices were catching up to the company, boycotts were hurting attendance, and more. Crowd levels thus far in June 2022 should put all of those theories to rest.

To be sure, we’re not criticizing those who theorized about why Walt Disney World crowds were lower last month. We did exactly that, which seemed reasonable in light of limited Disney Park Pass reservation availability coupled with lower waits.

As it turns out, it was simply a normal May–the lull between spring break and summer. That still doesn’t reconcile the reservation situation, except perhaps as a means of better distributing crowds or Disney being slow to lift limits after restoring park capacity.

Regardless, that should serve as a good reminder for the post-summer months when attendance inevitably falls off a cliff in mid-August. Numbers spike into Independence Day, but once school goes back into session, crowds at Walt Disney World always plummet. Always.

As much as some WDW fans might want to think otherwise, that won’t be reflective of guests being fed up with nickel & diming or assorted other controversies–it’s just what happens annually. Even if the Park Pass calendar gives the appearance of high demand for August and September, we might safely dismiss that as a red herring.

Now, let’s dig into the data to take a look at June 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, which pretty much tell the entire story.

After being down by a relatively significant degree last month (still nothing as compared to last August through October), wait times are once again on par with February through April. In fact, only 1 minute separates all 4 of those months. As of right now, June 2022 has been exactly as busy as February, making it the #2 month out of the last 12 for crowd levels.

Weekly averages are increasing over the course of June 2022, which is not particularly surprising. This is exactly what happens in a normal summer, with the peak usually occurring the week before or after Independence Day (depending on when that falls).

When analyzing at weekly wait time averages across the entirety of Walt Disney World, it’s worthwhile to look all the way back to last June and July. During the previous summer, wait times in June were relatively flat before climbing and peaking at the very end of July.

This was almost certainly an anomaly. If you recall, Walt Disney World didn’t lift all health safety protocol until June 15. There’s always a lag between announcement, booking, and traveling. As a whole, America’s “reopening” didn’t gain steam until a bit later in the summer, too. Just wanted to draw your attention to this graph now, as we’ll circle back to that later in the commentary.

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

There have been some ups and downs, but wait times have been relatively consistent over the course of June thus far. Most days are 8/10, with a range of 6/10 to 9/10.

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

Interestingly, this tells a slightly different story than the monthly wait times for all of Walt Disney World. Obviously, it’s just one park, but Magic Kingdom’s wait times for June 2022, while higher as a whole than last month, are still significantly lower than late February through mid-April.

Here are the specific averages for the month of May:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 81 minutes
  • Jungle Cruise: 72 minutes
  • Peter Pan’s Flight: 71 minutes
  • Splash Mountain: 61 minutes
  • Space Mountain: 55 minutes
  • Meet Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall: 49 minutes
  • Haunted Mansion: 49 minutes
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 45 minutes

The average Magic Kingdom wait time for the month was 45 minutes, which is a significant increase from last month. In fact, many individual attractions are averaging wait times that are 10 minutes higher than last month.

Still, nothing is hitting triple digits. That’s what we’d expect of at least Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during a true peak season.

As compared to Magic Kingdom, it’s a totally different story at Animal Kingdom.

If the working hypothesis is that Disney Park Pass reservations are being used to redistribute crowds, this is the best evidence in support of that theory. Animal Kingdom seldom filled up in May, but often is without availability this month. The result is some of the highest wait times the park has seen this year.

Here are the attraction averages for June 2022:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage: 112 minutes
  • Na’vi River Journey: 74 minutes
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris: 59 minutes
  • Kali River Rapids: 52 minutes
  • Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost: 44 minutes
  • Expedition Everest: 38 minutes
  • Dinosaur: 38 minutes

Another explanation for the higher waits is that people are staying longer in Animal Kingdom thanks to the reimagined Finding Nemo musical and character meet & greet location (which also added another high-ish wait time to the mix to skew things upwards). Kali River Rapids is also more popular in the summer months, and Expedition Everest was not back for all of spring break season.

All of that could elevate the wait time data higher for June 2022 at Animal Kingdom than the busy late winter and spring months. Still, it’s interesting to see the sharp spike here as compared to the other parks, especially Magic Kingdom.

Over at EPCOT, wait times have been as wild of a ride as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. At least no one will need a barf bag after inspecting this graph (hopefully).

This month, EPCOT has usually been the last option for Disney Park Pass availability, with Animal Kingdom sometimes being an option (and sometimes not). EPCOT is occasionally booked to capacity and other days it isn’t.

You could probably explain these ups and downs with reference to the Park Pass and Annual Passholder reservation calendars. It really would’ve been smart if someone tracked those on a daily basis to plot against the wait time data. Unfortunately for you all, I’m not smart. (Weather undoubtedly also plays an outsized role here; EPCOT is the locals’ park, and Floridians are more likely to cancel park plans than tourists during the recent deluges.)

Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:

  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 78 minutes
  • Frozen Ever After: 78 minutes
  • Test Track: 68 minutes
  • Soarin’ Around the World: 50 minutes
  • Mission Space: 41 minutes
  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Royal Summerhaus: 28 minutes

No big surprises here. Rats and princesses continue to do battle for the most popular ride in EPCOT/World Showcase.

Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The format of these reports puts DHS last because it used to be the most “exciting” park for wait times and “feels like” crowds. That stopped being true in March; since then, DHS has been the most boring and consistent park. We haven’t even had any major complaints about our recent experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They’ve been mostly pleasant, but then again, we know how to navigate the crowds. (We also didn’t visit during the recent flooding, which probably would’ve spiced things up!)

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

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 128 minutes
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 108 minutes
  • Slinky Dog Dash: 93 minutes
  • Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 86 minutes
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 67 minutes
  • Toy Story Mania: 64 minutes
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 62 minutes
  • Alien Swirling Saucers: 51 minutes
  • Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 47 minutes
  • Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 35 minutes

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is so high because it’s operating at half-capacity due to a “stealth” refurbishment. It’ll likely remain at this level through summer. Similarly, Alien Swirling Saucers is also high because it was partially under refurbishment, but that’s over now.

Nothing else really stands out here, other than the fact that DHS has the “highest highs” at the top of its ride lineup. But that’s nothing new. Due to that, you need to do some combination of Early Entry, staying late, and/or Genie+ at DHS. Any 2 of the 3 will work for beating the crowds. To the greatest extent possible, avoid the standby lines between 10 am and 4 pm.

When you get down to it, most of this month’s crowd growth can be explained by Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. To be sure, wait times are higher across the board–Magic Kingdom’s headliners have been ~10 minutes above last month and Disney’s Hollywood Studios has seen a similar rise (and not just of the resistance).

Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom have been booked solid for June, just as they were for most of May…and March and April before that. In theory, this should mean that these two parks should’ve been equally busy all four months. In actuality, they have not. While more consistent, they’re definitely following familiar seasonal trends and the same general trajectory of wait times across Walt Disney World. That shouldn’t be the case if fully booked really is fully booked. 

From my perspective, this supports the theory 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. At this point, that probably has less to do with reducing staffing than it does reduced staffing. (The difference being one of intent–Disney is trying to hire more, as opposed to attempting to reduce Cast Members.)

Regardless of intent, if this theory is accurate, it would be another sign that the reservations system is here to stay for at least the near-term. Walt Disney World loves controlling crowds, and this would be one way to accomplish that even after staffing levels return to normal and pent-up demand has fizzled out. (Hat tip to Kimberly in the comments of the last crowd report, for first proposing this theory.)

Even if this theory is not accurate, the rise thus far in June undercuts all other explanations for the drop-off in crowds last month. All of those were premised on the Disney Park Pass calendar showing no availability, but there actually being plenty of surplus capacity.

If cancellations were on the rise to a meaningful degree, this month’s wait times would also bear that out. It’s possible that’s occurring to some degree, but definitely not sufficient to explain reservation availability v. wait times. In other words, it appears that we can throw that theory out the window.

Looking forward, there’s every reason to expect the next couple of weeks to be at least as busy as the beginning of the month, if not busier. Summer usually starters slow and gets progressively busier until the Fourth of July holiday.

Summer vacation season tends to start in earnest during the second half of June, and really accelerates around Independence Day. Our expectation is that the next few weeks resemble February before and after Presidents’ Day. If you’ll recall, it was already a busy winter up until then, but that was the turning point and everything after that holiday weekend made the preceding month and a half look like the normally sleepy off-season. Could be the same deal here.

One interesting quirk is that even less than 2 weeks out, the Disney Park Pass calendar is still totally green for July 2022 with the exception of Independence Day in Magic Kingdom. Two weeks before the start of May and June, there was a lot of yellow and some grey on the calendar.

Before getting ahead of ourselves with oddball theories to explain this, we’re just going to let it play out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not worth reading anything into this calendar at this point. Now, if the week of Independence Day comes and goes with moderate or low crowds, that’ll be a red flag. My guess is that won’t be the case–July will be busier than this month and the simple reality is that Disney increased Park Pass availability across the board.

With that said, we are not expecting is a repeat of last year with crowds rising over the remainder of the summer before falling off a cliff in August. As covered more thoroughly in our updated July 2022 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World, last June and July were likely anomalies, driven by a mix of rule changes and the delayed arrival of pent-up demand.

However, we are expecting peak season attendance for July, which flies in the face of 2017 to 2019. Basically, July 2022 should see the same elevated numbers as last year and for the same underlying reason (pent-up demand/making up for lost vacations) but with the same general weekly “crowd cadence” of prior years (just at higher levels). Meaning it’ll rise until peaking the week of Independence Day and gradually fall from there.

It’ll be interesting to see whether those cherry-picked 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 see how these predictions play out!

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 June 2022 thus far? Predictions on crowds for July or the duration of Summer 2022? Think the theory about the Park Pass calendar being used to redistribute crowds across all four parks makes sense? Expecting crowds to continue growing in June and until the week of July 4th? If you’ve visited within the last month, what did you think of crowds and wait times? Any parks or times of day noticeably worse than the others? 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!

26 Responses to “Summer Season Crowd Spike at Disney World!”
  1. Catherine June 27, 2022
  2. Maggie June 25, 2022
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  7. William Edwards June 23, 2022
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    • Tom Bricker June 22, 2022
  10. John June 22, 2022
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  11. CRT June 22, 2022
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