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 differentstory 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!)
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.
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!
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!