These free 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars rate dates so you can choose best weeks to go & avoid the worst, skipping long lines and high wait times. We cover seasonal events, weather, park hours, Orlando travel trends, and factors impacting when to visit Florida’s theme parks. (Updated January 1, 2023.)
There really is no “slow” season at Walt Disney World. Although there is a park reservation system in place that Disney claims is to “protect the guest experience against overcrowding” and “guarantee a great guest experience no matter when people come,” that’s not the real purpose of reservations. Nor does it accomplish that in practice, as crowds have been heavy throughout the last year.
Additionally, Walt Disney World uses promotions and special events during previously slow timeframes to lure guests to the parks, hosts major conventions and youth sporting events, and has dynamic pricing for tickets, hotels, and even Genie+ and Lightning Lanes in an attempt to redistribute crowds. All of this has thrown a monkey wrench into crowd calendars, as Disney’s masterful manipulation makes predicting wait times challenging. Nevertheless, there are still definitely big differences in crowd levels, and you should plan accordingly.
As of early 2023, the good news is that Walt Disney World crowd calendars are starting to normalize and should continue to do so, making crowd levels easier to predict once again. Attendance trends still are not “normal” by any stretch of the imagination, but familiar patterns have returned in terms of the best & worst dates to visit, which largely follow historical trends. However, there are a couple of caveats to this.
First, theme park reservations are still required. In the last few months, the only parks that are running out of reservations with regularity are Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This has been occurring on many days regardless of wait times, with both parks going unavailable on occasion with 5/10 or lower crowd levels.
This is because Walt Disney World is now using park reservations to manipulate attendance dynamics and redistribute crowds on many days. They’re doing this by capping reservations at Magic Kingdom and pushing people towards Animal Kingdom and EPCOT to increase the utilization of those parks and normalize numbers across all four parks.
This actually does not have a material impact on our Walt Disney World crowd calendars. If anything, it makes them more accurate since we do not break down recommendations by park (outside of party season at Magic Kingdom). Since Disney is using Park Pass to keep crowds consistent across all 4 parks, the only time there’s a significant same-day difference among the parks is when crowds are low…in which case, they’re typically low everywhere!
Second, Walt Disney World attendance has surged by millions of guests annually, and almost every single day of 2023 will be significantly more crowded than 2013. Similarly, last year was much busier than 2020 and 2021. Last year also ended up eclipsing 2019 thanks to a strong holiday season. Prior to that, 2019 was the busiest in Walt Disney World history–but even that fall experienced an unprecedented crowd drop around the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Crowd calendar scores are relative and calculated on a rolling basis, meaning a low day on the crowd calendar now feels like a moderate day did a few years ago. In other words, a 1/10 today is not the same as a 1/10 in September 2012 or October 2015. Today’s 1/10 might be closer to a 5/10 from five years ago.
Additionally, scores are also relative to their respective parks–meaning today’s 1/10 does not translate to the same average wait time at Magic Kingdom as it does Hollywood Studios. In order for crowd calendars to serve a practical purpose rather than a historic one, this approach is necessary–even if it can be confusing.
Finally, these crowd calendars are a measure of wait times rather than congestion. Given that they’re a number, wait times are quantifiable whereas congestion is subjective and constantly changing. It’s nearly impossible to measure. While wait times are usually a good proxy for crowd levels, they are not conclusive of attendance or in-park congestion.
There are several other variables that can impact “feels like” crowds, from festivals at EPCOT to weather to guest demographics to ride breakdowns to operational efficiency to day of the week. Beyond that, wait times can be manipulated by Walt Disney World–they’re often inflated, or otherwise inaccurate. But to the extent wait times are inflated, they are consistently inaccurate, so it all evens out in the end.
This all impacts crowds, or the perception thereof, and how they diverge from wait times. As such, posted waits are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s raw attendance or crowds. Imperfect as they might be, wait times are still the best measure of crowds–and the only objective one. The alternative is relying on individual guest perceptions, which are much more flawed and incomplete.
That might give you every reason to doubt the usefulness of Walt Disney World crowd calendars, which is kind of the point. Probably an odd approach by a planning resource that purports to predict crowd patterns, but we feel that it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of crowd calendars.
The bad news is that these 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars have the aforementioned limitations. Honestly, following a good itinerary and utilizing smart strategy is way more important than choosing the “right” dates. To that end, it’s entirely possible to beat bad crowds by utilizing Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, Early Entry, Extended Evening Hours, rope drop, etc. We cover the best & worst approach for each park in Best Time-Saving Strategies for Walt Disney World. (If you’re only going to read one planning post, make it that instead of this!)
The good news is that Walt Disney World crowd calendars are much more accurate than they were in the 18 months after the parks reopened. This is largely because of the aforementioned Disney Park Pass reservation calendar, which no longer has every date fully booked for months on end. While we expect ‘grey dates’ to return throughout this holiday season, the last several months have not been as bad as February through April, which reflected a mixture of pent-up demand and capacity constraints due to staffing shortages.
Things are getting better on both fronts, resulting in improved park reservation availability…and better crowd forecasts! With that said, we’re still not “out of the woods” with regard to long-term crowd forecasting. While we’ve done preliminary updates to our 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars, we’d like to see more clarity about everything from the economy to geopolitical risk to household balance sheets and more.
If oil prices go up more or fears of a recession grow in 2023, attendance will drop. But even economists can’t agree on what’ll happen, so don’t expect Walt Disney World crowd forecasters to know. (As such, the further out the 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars go, the less accurate they are.)
With that in mind, I will offer a few quick predictions for the near-term. While this holiday season was far busier than last year for a number of reasons, we are expecting somewhat of a slowdown in the next couple of months that’ll benefit those visiting in most of January and February 2023.
These winter months have been their own roller coaster over the course of the last 3 years. Attendance was astronomical for the first three months of 2020 before everything fell apart and Walt Disney World closed. (See Peak Crowds in Winter “Off-Season” at Walt Disney World.)
The following year, we predicted that those crowds would not materialize due to the likelihood of a winter wave of COVID keeping people away. That would be coupled with a lack of international travel, conventions, youth events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, and runDisney offerings. That prediction ended up being accurate.
Last year, we predicted the opposite for the same reasons: international travel, runDisney, conventions, and youth sporting events would all be back. On top of that, there were domestic guests who delayed visits from the first three months of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary due to the Delta variant or face mask rules.
Again, that was accurate. After a surprisingly slow October through mid-November (and even a holiday season that wasn’t as busy in normal in terms of attendance, even when ‘feels like’ crowds begged to differ), January and February caught a lot of people by surprise with how bad they were.
For January and February 2023, we’re expecting something between the two extremes. That might seem like a cop out, but that’s my honest assessment. With that said, if you want a “sexier” prediction, and I were forced to bet on crowds being bad or good at this point–with no “in between” option or additional nuance–I’d choose good.
Specifically, our expectation is that January 9, 2023 through February 17, 2023 will be among the least busy dates of the year (minus the MLK holiday weekend). To be sure, it won’t be “dead” or off-season by historical standards, but it should be the best time to visit since last August through September.
Just keep in mind that contemporary crowds are worse than historic ones–so if you’re one of the people who found this early fall to be “too crowded,” you will undoubtedly feel the same way about those Winter 2023 dates.
Following that, Presidents’ Day will be bad–among the worst dates of the year. While that might seem like a minor holiday, it always has a big impact on crowds at Walt Disney World. Last year, it was one of the 5 busiest weeks. This Presidents’ Day should be even worse, as it also coincides with Mardi Gras in 2023.
Then there’s Osceola and Orange County Spring Breaks, Easter, and a range of other dates that’ll be good and bad. For more insight into all of those and more, see the month-by-month crowd calendars below.
If you’d prefer something more holistic instead, we’d recommend consulting our 2023 Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World. That is a broad overview of when to travel to Walt Disney World, plus a few of our favorite weeks to visit. That’s more of a qualitative assessment that also factors in generalized crowd trends.
With that said, we’ve started the process of updating our month by month crowd calendars, and have suggestions for when you should and shouldn’t visit Walt Disney World…
2023 Disney World Crowd Calendars
If you’ve already narrowed down a season or range of dates during which you want to visit Walt Disney World, we’d recommend forgoing the remainder of this post. Instead, refer to our individual monthly guides, which offer free crowd calendars and cover weather, seasonal events, refurbishments, and what’s new & next.
These 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars offer more granular details for each specific month. We’d suggest reading all months for the time of year you’re considering. For example, if you’re thinking of a summer vacation, read the May through August monthly guides; if you’re considering Christmas, consult both November and December.
Again, these 2023 Walt Disney World crowd calendars are only reliable about 6 months in advance. It’s still too early to make reliable predictions for next spring and beyond. With that said, some of the same general patterns play out year in and out, so later months are useful for broader weekly trends–rather than specific dates to visit.
These Walt Disney World crowd calendars cover the best and works week to visit in each month, with overarching assessments of attendance trends and wait times at Walt Disney World. In so doing, we eschew numerical or color-coded crowd calendars for detailed, qualitative explanations.
We believe this approach to Walt Disney World crowd calendars is far more useful to readers. While it’d be easier to mindlessly choose dates by what’s green or has a low number on crowd calendar, that approach doesn’t do proper justice to attendance and wait time trends.
For these crowd calendars, we combine normal data like wait times and other info that serves as a proxy for crowds with our in-person observations and anecdotal experiences. From all of this, we’ve learned to spot patterns and notice things about wait times and attendance at Walt Disney World, which we share with you in our crowd calendars.
Suffice to say, you’re far better off spending the ~10 minutes to read each crowd calendar section, as we explain the why and how of these patterns. Some months of the year–September through December, especially–crowd calendars don’t tell the full story.
Having a little knowledge about the ebb and flow of attendance throughout the day will far better prepare you to avoid crowds and zig when others zag. Some parks and attractions see visitor numbers and lines spike during certain parts of the day, and it’s important to understand the why of this, so you can plan around the peak crowds.
On top of that, attendance dynamics have changed over the years. January and February used to be slow season and Summer used to be peak season–neither of which are true anymore. There are several other ways that attendance patterns have changed at Walt Disney World that we address in those rankings.
Walt Disney World has become aggressive with promotions and scheduling seasonal events during the slowest stretches to entice people to visit and close the gap. These attempts to close the gap have been successful to a degree in that there is now truly no “dead” season. However, the difference in crowds between mid-September and the week before Christmas remains significant. That’s just one example–choosing a good week as opposed to a bad one can be huge.
This isn’t to say that there’s no way to avoid the crowds anymore–there absolutely is–and crowd calendars will help with that. The slower dates are still noticeably slower than the busier dates. All we’re saying is that crowd calendars are not some ‘magic bullet’ that you can use without doing any other research to have a great trip, walking onto every attraction. Over-reliance on Walt Disney World crowd calendars (including ours!) will lead to disappointment.
If you’re trying to determine when to visit, we recommend starting by choosing seasonal events and the type of weather that appeal most to you, and then narrowing your dates within those broad parameters based on what crowd calendars identify as the best and first weeks to visit. Walt Disney World crowd calendars are still a useful tool, but they’re not a planning panacea.
Choosing which days to visit Walt Disney World is just one aspect of planning a trip. To make sure you tackle everything, make sure you read our Guide to Planning a Walt Disney World Trip, which covers all of the essentials. With that said, here’s what else to consider…
If weather is an important consideration, we highly recommend heading down from in late September, October, early November, late February, March, or April. Those are ideal from a weather perspective. That is, assuming you want more temperate weather, rather than extreme heat and humidity or more cold weather. If you like your clothes drenched in sweat from high temperatures, May until late-August are the perfect times for you to visit.
Late summer and early fall are the height of hurricane and storm season, which have become increasingly relevant. We highly recommend consulting our Visiting Walt Disney World During Storm Season article before booking a trip this time of year. The best case scenario is navigating the afternoon showers without them putting too much of a damper on your trip. Worst case, an approaching hurricane forces you to cancel your trip or be at Walt Disney World while the parks close due to the storm.
If you must visit between the late spring through early fall, just remember to pack accordingly, bringing the Frogg Toggs for the humidity…and ponchos for the rain so you don’t spend $179 on them at Walt Disney World. Read our Unique Disney World Packing List for some items you might not otherwise think of taking.
While early December and January are great times to visit to avoid crowds, our experience has been that these are the worst two months in terms of weather. Not only does it get extremely cold (well, relatively speaking–it is Florida after all), but there are substantial swings in temperature. You might find yourself wanting to wear shorts in the morning but by late afternoon it is jeans and sweatshirt weather. As the night rolls on, you might even find yourself wanting to put on a parka.
If you travel during these seasons, expect to bring more luggage and make more stops at your room to change clothing (or at least plan on renting a locker to store additional layers of clothing each day). You may be lucky and find relatively consistent temperate weather during these timeframes, but it’s best to prepare for the worst so that you don’t have to purchase a bunch of $50 sweatshirts from the Emporium on Main Street. Those $50 sweatshirts can add up quickly! Check out our Winter Packing Tips for Disney post for more insight on what to take on your winter trip to Walt Disney World.
In talking to others, we’ve found that this is the one area that people consider the least when planning their trips, which we think is at least a small mistake. It’s important to note up front that, typically, less busy seasons have shorter park hours and busier times have longer park hours.
It thus stands to reason that you can basically get the same amount done in a shorter day during a less busy time than you could during a busier time. However, this isn’t always true. If you use an efficient touring plan (see our Itineraries for Walt Disney World), you have a good chance of getting more done during a busier time of year than during a slower stretch.
This is especially true if you get to the park early and stay late. Sometimes during especially busy times, Magic Kingdom will open at 8 am and will close at 11 pm. While we’ve taken advantage of these hours without taking a break during the day, we realize some of you are mere mortals.
A great strategy to employ during days with operating hours such as these is to get to the park shortly before opening, stay until around 11 a.m., go back to your resort to nap or relax, and return around dinner time to stay until park close. Regardless of the time of year, the parks will always be fairly slow during the first couple operational hours, and will always be fairly deserted late at night. Ride as much as you can early in the day and do less popular attractions as the day wears on.
Similarly, park hours should be taken into account based upon your sleep habits. If you’re a late-to-rise night owl, the Fall and late Winter/early Spring months may be a bad idea, as these entail many early closing times. If you’re not going to get to the parks until noon anyway, your day might be only 7 hours or so.
Conversely, if you wake up early and generally call it a day by 5 or 7 pm or so, those midnight closings aren’t going to do you any good. Make sure you check Disney’s park hours calendar when planning your trip. It’s important to note that this calendar is often inaccurate far in advance (Disney posts hours conservatively, then extends them as bookings increase).
This is a big one for us, as we’ve been to Walt Disney World so many times that it’s nice to visit during different times of year to keep things varied. Even if it’s your first visit to Walt Disney World, if you have particular interests, you might want to consider planning your trip around these special events. The schedules for these varies, as does the price (if any), so please consult the respective page for each event when doing your planning and budgeting.
We’ve written tips & tricks for almost every seasonal event at Walt Disney World, because most aren’t simply a matter of “show up, have fun.” We encourage you to click these links (they will open in a new tab) and read the guides. Like all things Walt Disney World-related, you’ll have a much better time and see more that the event has to offer if you do some advance planning…
Walt Disney World Marathon– The flagship runDisney race weekend is held in early January, usually the weekend after New Year’s. It typically occurs while schools are still out for winter break, effectively extending the holiday season crowds into early January.
EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival – Beginning in mid-July, this is EPCOT’s flagship culinary event. Want to know what to do–and more importantly what NOT to do? Read our guide. It’ll give you an idea of what’s not worth the money, and what is worth doing.
2023 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom – Possibly more than any other special event at Walt Disney World, you need to do advance planning for this. Character meet & greets can form hour-plus long waits, and there’s so much to do that you can’t accomplish everything in one party. We highly recommend reading this guide!
EPCOT Food & Wine Festival – Same as above usually continues through mid to late November.
Candlelight Processional at Epcot – Here we cover whether you should do the dinner package, along with a list of the narrators, and some photos from recent Candlelight Processionals we’ve attended.
If school schedules are something around which you must plan, chances are you’re going to go during one of the busier (or at least not one of the least busy) times of the year. School schedules are the paramount consideration for many other families planning trips, too.
It may seem convenient to visit during one of the ‘holidays’ your kids have off from school, but it’s important to consider whether other schools have these same dates off, as well. Of the traditional school holidays, only Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are good times to visit.
Because most schools have the week before Christmas until the shortly after New Year’s off, this is an especially crowded window to visit. Likewise, the same goes for President’s Day weekend, Easter week, Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day week, Veterans Day week, the entirety of the Summer, and Thanksgiving week.
Although schools do vary their Spring Break schedules, don’t expect the parks to be any less busy because of staggered Spring Breaks. Mid-March until mid-April are also incredibly busy dates for the parks because of Spring Breaks, with the two weeks abutting Easter being the absolute worst (since most schools still use Easter as a proxy for Spring Break).
Some people don’t have many other options, so it’s going during a school break or nothing. If so, it’s not the end of the world. As we’ve stressed above, crowd calendars are not as important as they used to be. Simply pack your patience and have a good touring plan (which is far more important than choosing dates based upon a crowd calendar, anyway). For help with this, refer to our Free Walt Disney World Park Itineraries & Touring Plans. We have the perfect strategy for fun, efficient, and memorable days in the parks!
If you don’t have kids or aren’t otherwise forced to travel around holidays or traditional vacation periods, we’d highly recommend avoiding them. Not because we have anything against kids, but because crowds and prices will be higher during these breaks. Plan around them and save both time and money!
If you are unsure of when visiting Walt Disney World might be best for you–or need personalized help with any aspect of your trip from hotels to the Disney Dining Plan and more–we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (basically, Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so none of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
Ultimately, all of this is a long-winded way of saying that consulting crowd calendars for Walt Disney World in 2023 is useful, but strategy matters more. That has been the case since ~2018, but it’s more pronounced than ever right now. With Disney Park Pass reservations booking up on a daily basis, crowds are largely being leveled and not reflective of actual, organic demand. That presumably does vary much more day-to-day or week-to-week, but that’s not playing out with the capacity caps in place.
As we often say, pack your patience and arm yourself with savvy strategy if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in the coming weeks or months. The bad news is that it’s going to be very busy with “feels like” crowds and wait times among the highest we’ve seen in the last two years. The good news is that these crowds are more “beatable” than those of this winter or last holiday season.
Visiting Walt Disney World during the best dates to avoid crowds is probably one of the most important aspects of trip planning. What season, month, or week do you generally visit WDW? Do you visit at times when you know crowds will be light, or do you visit when school is out of session? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!