Surprisingly Slow Start to July at Disney World!
Fourth of July is now in the rearview mirror, and the holiday weekend was surprisingly pleasant at Walt Disney World. This wait times report covers ride & daily data for last month and the start of July 2022 at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, while also offering a look forward at what to expect.
Our last two wait times reports covered the first half of June, covering what was (at the time) a spike in crowd levels as compared to the shoulder season of May. Unsurprisingly, wait times and crowds were climbing, and Disney Park Pass reservations were starting to fill up for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios most dates, plus Animal Kingdom and EPCOT on occasion.
In a normal summer season, this is precisely what would happen. most of May would be the calm before the storm. Then vacation season would kick off, slowly accelerating as more schools got out of session. An increasing number of families take their trips around Independence Day, which is essentially the midway point of the summer season. That’s usually the peak, with crowd levels building to that point and slowly falling after it. Again, all in a normal year.
It was thus our expectation as of mid-June that the growing crowd levels observed then would continue to increase through Independence Day, and then gradually trend downward in the weeks following that. They’d continue to do so until mid-August when schools go back into session. That’s the beginning of the off-season and the unofficial start of Halloween and fall at Walt Disney World. (Yes, really. Seasons have little meaning in Florida!)
Only the first half of all that has played out so far, but it’s already wrong. Late June and early July haven’t gone as expected, which will likely once again kick the speculation machine into high gear. But before we get to all of that, let’s dig into the data to take a look at late June and 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, which tell the story thus far for July 2022.
That’s far less true for late June. That’s because wait times for the first half of the month were on par with the busiest stretches of February through April, with only 1 minute separating the peaks of those months and the first half of June. Up until mid-month, it was on pace to be the #2 month out of the last 12 for crowd levels.
With the week by week view, we can see that wait times increased steadily from their lows in early May up until mid-June.
Again, in a normal year, those bars would continue to go higher until Independence Day. Instead, wait times began dropping the week of June 19. The declines were nominal at first–but still surprising given that they should have been increasing into the heart of summer season!
Individual days illustrate mostly the same, but with more bars.
The highest bar on the right side is June 13. Given the timing of our last crowd report right after that, we suspected that was the start of a summer surge at Walt Disney World. As you can plainly see, that did not happen.
For park by park analysis, we’ll start with Magic Kingdom.
Interestingly, this tells a slightly different story than the downward-trending wait times for all of Walt Disney World. Rather than following a consistent pattern, Magic Kingdom crowd levels have been 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. Oh, and that 3/10 day? The Fourth of July.
However, that’s a bit deceiving. We were in Magic Kingdom over the holiday weekend, and the feels like crowds were definitely much higher than the wait time data suggests. In all likelihood, this is because many people were visiting Magic Kingdom not for rides, but for the patriotic fireworks and festivities.
We saw (and waited in) decently long lines for the PhotoPass Magic Shots, and Main Street was absolutely bonkers before, during, and after the fireworks. This is becoming increasingly common and is something addressed in Disney Enchantment Gets Second Showing. We should probably do a standalone post about post-fireworks transportation woes, as this appears to be an evergreen issue.
Here are the specific averages for the month of July 2022:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 85 minutes
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 70 minutes
- Jungle Cruise: 62 minutes
- Splash Mountain: 59 minutes
- Space Mountain: 50 minutes
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 45 minutes
The average Magic Kingdom wait time for the month so far is 34 minutes, which is a significant decrease from last month–down 11 minutes from the first half of June when we last did this report. That is absolutely huge over the course of an entire day.
Also notable that nothing is hitting triple digits, which is what we’d expect of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during a true peak season. Given the recent news about Splash Mountain–and the triple-digit “feels like” temperatures–we’re also surprised that isn’t topping 100 minutes. (Heck, it’s not even averaging an hour!)
Aside from some deep drops here and there, Animal Kingdom is largely in line with Walt Disney World as a whole.
Animal Kingdom was the one park with reservation availability on July 4th and, unsurprisingly, that was the park’s slowest day of the year so far. Unlike Magic Kingdom’s 3/10 crowd level on that day, this is normal for Animal Kingdom. With no fireworks and an earlier closing time, most guests opt against DAK on Independence Day. Perhaps it’s time to start a new tradition of eating Flame Tree BBQ, watching kites crash, and trying to time travel with a dinosaur. Sounds distinctly patriotic to me!
Here are the attraction averages for July 2022:
- Avatar Flight of Passage: 84 minutes
- Na’vi River Journey: 66 minutes
- Kali River Rapids: 48 minutes
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 47 minutes
- Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost: 40 minutes
- Expedition Everest: 38 minutes
- Dinosaur: 33 minutes
While these are big declines as compared to the first half of June, Animal Kingdom is still higher than many busy dates 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. (Paradoxically, crowds could actually be worse on those weekends despite lower waits because fewer guests are doing attractions.) Locals are also more likely than tourists to cancel park plans at the last minute if the weather is bad–and it was a hot and rainy month.
Here are individual attraction wait times at EPCOT this month:
- Frozen Ever After: 67 minutes
- Test Track: 65 minutes
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 62 minutes
- Mission Space: 40 minutes
- Soarin’ Around the World: 39 minutes
Interesting to see the Rat Ride fall to #3. While it and the Frozen sisters often battle for the top slot, this is the first time we’ve seen Test Track pass Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Once again, the most consistent park–but still trending downward by a noticeable amount from the second half of June. We haven’t even had any major complaints about our recent experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They’ve been mostly pleasant, especially if avoiding 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: 106 minutes
- Slinky Dog Dash: 92 minutes
- Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 82 minutes
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 73 minutes
- Toy Story Mania: 69 minutes
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 65 minutes
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 55 minutes
- Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 41 minutes
- Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 35 minutes
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 37 minutes
Despite the overall downward trajectory, most headliners maintained their elevated wait times as compared to the first half of June. Several actually increased. In fact, if we remove three attractions from the mix, wait times are actually up slightly.
The biggest difference is that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s average dropped in half, from 108 minutes to 55 minutes. That’s because it’s once again operating at FULL capacity, with the “stealth” refurbishment that took the ride down to half-capacity finished. (Or rather, one half of the refurbishment finished.) It’s unclear when work on the other side will begin, but our hope is in August during the off-season.
Before we get to the analysis, above is a look at the weekly wait time averages for Universal Orlando (both parks). We haven’t shared this previously, but thought it’d be worthwhile to include for a couple reasons.
First, many of you are planning trips to Central Florida and those encompass both Walt Disney World and Universal. As such, this data has practical value. Second, this provides something of a “control” variable for our various theories about crowds at WDW. For the most part, Universal Orlando’s crowd levels in the last month track with Disney’s, so we can eliminate explanations that only pertain to one of the park operators (e.g. Disney Park Pass, nickel & diming, assorted controversies).
This leaves us with bigger picture explanations that would apply similarly to both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
In other words, the usual suspects we’ve been discussing for months: pent-up demand among domestic visitors could be fizzling out, inflation on necessities resulting in reductions to discretionary spending, depleted household savings and rising debt levels, and the rising cost of travel due to gas prices. Air travel has also been an absolute nightmare in the last month. (Sadly, we speak from experience on that last one!)
Rather than rehashing it all here, I’ll direct your attention to What Does Walt Disney World Do During A Recession? I suspect that’s going to be increasingly relevant in the coming months.
This still doesn’t make complete sense. The Disney Park Pass calendar has been yellow for so many 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.
In theory, this should mean that these two parks should’ve been equally busy every single day. In actuality, they have not–we’ve seen Magic Kingdom have everything from 3/10 to 9/10 crowd level dates in the last month. That shouldn’t be the case if fully booked really is fully booked.
As discussed in last month’s crowd report, this supports the theory that Walt Disney World is using reservations to manipulate attendance. The company is pushing people towards Animal Kingdom and EPCOT to increase their utilization and normalize numbers across all four parks. Aside from deliberate manipulation, there’s really no other good explanation as to why “fully booked” days have such inconsistent crowd levels. (I guess the Park Pass system being totally random and/or broken is another possibility, but that seems unlikely.)
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.
One more thing worth pointing out is that we noticed some huge discrepancies between posted and actual wait times at Walt Disney World shortly before and over the holiday weekend. This is nothing new, and something explained in greater detail last year in Genie+ Buyer Beware: Posted v. Actual Wait Times at Walt Disney World.
However, the degree and extent to which wait times were off caught us by surprise. It seemed much larger than normal, with many attractions having actual waits that were less than half of their posted times. (We’ve also been noticing sporadic backups of the Lightning Lanes, which could be causing some of these issues.)
We hesitate to make any forward-looking predictions for the rest of July at this point. As pointed out earlier, summer usually starts slow and gets progressively busier until the Fourth of July holiday and then gradually declines thereafter. However, that is already not how things are playing out.
Instead, we could look back to last year as the basis of our July forecast. If that repeats itself, wait times will now start rising gradually until peaking in late July and falling off a cliff from August through October. However, those circumstances were very unique with pent-up demand, relaxation of rules, and subsequent reinstatement of rules due to the Delta spike. There’s no reason to believe last year offers any precedential value.
With absolutely no basis to support these predictions, my tempered expectation is that we’ll see a plateauing of crowd levels for the next couple of weeks before wait times start declining in late July. The second week of August will once again be the big turning point, with numbers plummeting as schools go back into session. Your guess is as good as mine, though.
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!
Thoughts on crowds in the second half of June or July 2022 thus far? Predictions for 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 decreasing in July, or will this trend reverse in the coming days and weeks? 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!
We’re a family that goes to WDW every year, but only stays in property once in a while. So I’m familiar with the crowds somewhat.
I have to say that these comments regarding sparse crowds are getting me more excited to go.
We’re going in the beginning of August, yea I know, but NJ weather isn’t far off from FL when it comes to hot and sticky. And I’m not at work!
My family was at Disney June 24-28. It was a very last minute trip. We had planned to come in October but after hearing multiple reports of gas could be $6 a gallon by Labor Day we said we should go now. It also helped that we had Marriott points to use at Swan Reserve and when I booked it two weeks in advanced it was only 40k points per night versus 58k in October. It was a great trip but we will never come in Summer again. The daily storms and extreme heat made us just move so much slower. The only issues we had were Guardians of Galaxy going down for 60 minutes right when we scanned in. We decided to wait it out and it was so worth it! We got Tears for Fear and had such a fun time on that ride! On another night Splash Mountain never opened back up after closing for lightning in the area around 7:30pm.
If the lack of tourists is not due to the cost of gas, airline issues or the ever rising prices at Disney, then I don’t know what the problem is. I live at the Jersey shore and (as in “Jaws”) July 4th is the biggest weekend of the summer. But this year, the parkway, beach and boardwalk were empty. Also very few boats and wave runners were on the water. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’ve lived my entire life in NJ.
Maybe other resorts were experiencing the same. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is really expensive right now. Anyone who goes to the grocery store knows that all too well. Perhaps people are feeling the pinch. What I’m saying is, maybe it’s not just a Disney thing.
For us it was the values issue. We’re not spending money with a company openly hostile to our faith.
How can you “stack lightning lanes”? I’ve read that in some of these comments. I’m coming to Disney from nov 2 – Nov 8, and according to Tom, it’s a great week to be at Disney. I reserved our trip during the time when you could include Genie+, so that’s what I did eventhough we won’t may not need it everyday. But how can you stack LL? If you have a LL res at 11 am, but don’t arrive until 3 pm, wouldn’t you miss your LL time? I know you can make them every two hours starting at 7. But I see people saying they’re not arriving until late in the day.
The idea is that you can book your first LL at 7 (or whenever, really) and then every two hours after the park opens. Start in the morning and book as much as you can before you even get to the parks. This is called stacking. Obviously, you don’t want to accept any times that are for before you arrive to the park. But it really is just that simple!
So the LL times that you book, are often hours from now. Take a look at the app and go to tip board. You can fake book things all day at home to see what I mean. The other day I had 5 LLs stacked for Hollywood evening. What you do is at 7 you book Slinky. Usually this will be for evening. (Although you could get unlucky and it’s early – have to immediately cancel and rebook if that happens). Then buy Rise for evening. Then at 11, see what else is pushed out to say 5pm and book that (maybe Tower of Terror or Runaway Railway). Then at 1pm see what else is pushed to late, maybe you grab Rock coaster for later. At 230 head to the park and when you arrive at 3pm grab one more for later! You basically are booking backwards – every 2 hours you book whatever’s time is pushed out the farthest. Does that make sense? You can do the whole park from 3-9 in this manner esp if you don’t have sit down dining and only do 1 show.
We flew down today (July 6) from Canada and were wondering where all the people are. Usually we visit during Christmas, so our thoughts about crowds are a bit skewed, but at 4pm today I took a photo on Main Street with a huge amount of it actually empty. Taking the MK bus to and from POFQ there were maybe 6 people total on it. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but I’m liking these numbers so far.
Hi Tom, we have been in WDW since July 3 and the crowds have been surprisingly light. I was worried when I saw that park availability for July 4 week remained for so long– afraid that crowds would be insane– but it’s been extremely pleasant. My son and I hosted my sister and nephew (stayed at Yacht) so I wanted it to be nice, and some days we road at least 15 headliners, including Cosmic Rewind and Rise on the same day. We had plenty of time to chill at the pool which was not packed either. One thing I’ve noticed is that no one seems to care if you are hours late for your genie+ and LL reservations, and they will also let you in a bit earlier which they were always super strict about in the past. So my strategy was to hang by the pool in the morning and let the ride reservations pile up, then implement a strategy later in the day.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Also interesting to hear that Stormalong Bay was not packed–I would not have guessed that, even with these low to moderate crowd levels.
(For what it’s worth, the pools at Coronado Springs were pretty busy over the weekend, but that hotel is always all over the place–and it was hosting a youth event, which tends to make things worse.)
“Think the theory about the Park Pass calendar being used to redistribute crowds across all four parks makes sense?”
If Sir Issac Newton were alive today he’d assure you this is more definite than gravity.
“Predictions for the duration of Summer 2022?”
With each week in August it will become unbearably hotter, humid, sticky and unpleasant except when hurricanes blow in to cool things off. Smart shoppers like your readers will do well to steer clear till September.
Wait…no afternoon rain showers appearing out of nowhere every day–what kind of forecast is this?!
If only crowds were as easy to predict as weather this time of year at Walt Disney World! 😉
I’m just trying to be a good Disney Tourist Blog citizen by warning your readers that they should stay away the last 3 weeks in August. In fact I ‘m going to sacrifice myself and my family by going there during that miserable time to report back on how lucky DTB fellow followers are to have stayed home. No need to thank me. Doing the right thing is reward enough. That and of course low crowds.
We just moved to Florida a month ago about an hour away from Orlando. I figured we would wait until things slowed down in August to visit again. When checking wait times on Sunday I noticed how low they were compared to normal so decided to take our older 2 boys for the 4th while my husband happily volunteered to stay back with our toddler. It was the best decision. While crowds at Epcot got crazy in the evening it was pretty great the rest of the day. I even scored a last minute better bidding deal for the Dolphin for under $200 so we could take advantage of the extended evening hours and have a place to take a break from the heat. I had issues linking the reservation in my Disney experience, even the lady checking us in at the Dolphin tried to help without success, but we were able to show our reservation in the Bonvoy app and get in early w/o any issue. Since we’d missed the 7am virtual queue and had yet to ride guardians of the galaxy cosmic rewind I went ahead and paid for the ILL when the park opened and we got a 1:20 pm spot. While eating lunch at Regal Eagle I scored a boarding group for the 1 pm virtual queue as well (can you tell we follow this blog a lot) . I was also able to score another for the evening hours at the 6 pm virtual queue which ended up being a walk-on when we were called back during the fireworks to the point that we actually got to pick where we wanted to sit. For a very last-minute trip we got to ride everything, including cosmic rewind and Remy’s both 3 times (shot out to the cast member who knew our mouse had some issues during our last ride and made sure we got to ride again as the last people on the ride for the night which was a pretty special experience). We’ve visited about a ½ dozen times since 2018 for a week at a time and can honestly say this was one of our best days at the park! After the last 2 COVID era visits were pretty frustrating this one put a little more magic and hope back into our hearts.
We were in Epcot on the 4th as well! Yes the fireworks crowds were insane as expected, but ready off the day was great. We rode Guardians 3 times! And that’s with me sleeping in and forgetting to book at 7. We did the 1pm drop, 6pm drop and purchased it. We rode it 5x in 2 days 🙂 Still haven’t gotten tears for fears though. Been very happy with crowd levels. The only problem is the rain storms bringing down rides and pool time. July 3 and 7 were the worst for rain this week. And the heat yesterday was really bad. We were in AK and my son started feeling bad bc of it. But honestly the crowds are much lower this week than when we came Oct 13-20 last year!! People think you’re crazy to go in July, and maybe we are, but it’s just as hot and rainy in the fall and that’s crazy town with crowds.
And in the meantime Universal is sitting back watching everything unfold…
The last time we went to Disney in the summer was for a July wedding twenty years ago. Not gonna ever do THAT again though the wedding and Epcot reception was memorable. I think you and Disney are gonna find crowds getting even more sparse, especially after school starts. If the stock market is still a roughly six-month predictor of the economy, we’re in for some rough waters ahead mateys!
Agree with all of that, both the subjective downsides of WDW during summer and economic realities (broader than just the stock market, although that’s certainly relevant for a large segment of Disney’s demo) will start to set in.
I do wonder whether Thanksgiving through NYE will buck whatever trends otherwise shape up. People love Christmas at WDW, and might spend during the holiday season regardless. I could see that stretch defying expectations/patterns.
Hi Jack, I think you and Tom are correct in thinking that the economy will be a greater factor and one we haven’t seen very often in the last few years. The prices of everyday commodities as well as fuel for cars, is going to hit the travel industry pretty hard. I remember the last time gas was very expensive combined with scarce (1980s), most people weren’t traveling. It just wasn’t economically feasible.
I actually think gas prices will be the least relevant variable in that. We’re already starting to see crude prices drop and oil futures point to more of that in the coming months due to lower demand.
It’s the underlying cause of that–Jay Powell and more restrictive monetary policy from the Fed–that’s also likely to cause greater demand destruction and an economic slowdown or recession.
Well speaking for myself. I am leaving out of the country with my family of 5 Friday! And guess what it will cost about the same as Disney vacation! With country’s dropping Covid policy’s and able to get out of the US for people that can afford it I think will be making more vacations to places they could not get too the last 2 years.
Then you have the people that are now cash strapped or getting priced out that in my opinion will stop going or go less.
Could be perfect storm and Disney starts deals sooner than later if economy gets worse.
Be very interesting to see where it goes but I hope Disney feels some pain and we see them start to value guest again like in the past. Won’t happen till the bottom line gets hurt!
I don’t personally disagree with your points or perspective, but I also don’t think Walt Disney World “competes” with international travel in a meaningful way. In other words, most families/couples pricing out a trip to Central Florida aren’t looking at Paris or London (etc) as alternatives. The people who do are outliers.
Agree with the rest of it, though.
We have done the same thing actually. When we started crunching numbers, it seemed ridiculous to the spend thousands for a weekend at Disney. Doing that every other month was our habit. It just wasn’t worth it for a diminished, frustrating experience. The Magic is gone.
So we spent July 3rd at MK and July 4th at EPCOT. We opted to grab G+ for MK and built out our evening from home. We got in MK on the 3rd at 6pm and here is how we did. We grabbed Starbucks and then mobile ordered Pecos Bills to get fueled up for our stacked LLs for the evening. Starting at 7:15 we had Peter Pan, then back Tracked to Jungle Cruise, found our spot for firework viewing which was nowhere near Main Street. After fireworks we tapped into POTC, followed by HM, then laughably we grabbed the Little Mermaid just to save time on the queue walk. After that we would have rushed to Seven Dwarfs for our last attraction, but it was down and never recovered, so we detoured very quickly to the Peoplemover. Crowd level wise MK was very crowded, but as you said they were there for fireworks!
For our 4th at EPCOT we only planned to go to see the fireworks, but I toyed with the virtual queue for Guardians and scored a very late boarding group which ended up playing in our favor. We were called at 7 pm so we got on that, and waited for Spaceship Earth, Soarin, Figment before grabbing our last Taco Vampiro for the season, and the wandered over to the American pavilion area for funnel cake and viewing. The crowd level at EPCOT was the most we have seen in a while, but it was for the Fireworks again. in fact after the show we just sat in the American pavilion for a good 45 mins to let everyone clear out. Your data is a good indication that the next couple of weeks may be a wonderful time to visit.
It’s the last year of legacy passes for a lot of us so we are blocked out all summer as a hold over from when Disney decided summer was worth a “premium” (let’s all laugh). Also they stopped selling new passes. Summer in Florida is punishing. I don’t understand why a non local would go or why any one would go without a significant discount.
Even at the end of our legacy passes I think we will skip summer.
Well we are here now from GA because we have teens and can no longer go during the year. Have to stick to holidays for my husband work as well. So we are stuck with the options of Easter, July 4, t-giving or Xmas. We decided to try the July 4 fireworks this year and were not disappointed!! We are staying at Riviera and having a great trip. We sleep till noon, hit the pool, then do parks from 3-close. I know a lot of ppl are scared off in July because of the heat though. I think July will continue to be lighter than fall and February regardless of the economy . But the ticket prices were painful. $2100 for 3 ppl and that did NOT include park hopper …