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Pre-Summer Slowdown at Disney World

We’re now halfway through May 2022, and this month is once again firmly shoulder season at Walt Disney World. This report covers what that means in terms of daily crowd levels and average attraction wait times for last month at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, focusing on the first two weeks of May while also offering a look forward at what to expect in Summer 2022.

In essence, this is a continuation of our last wait times report: Spring Crowds Fall at Walt Disney World. That was the first time in the last several months that the parks had started to see a deceleration in data. Prior to that, wait times had been consistently elevated since Presidents’ Day.

Even the start of the year was busy. Wait times from January through April were all up significantly as compared to last year. February was the busiest month in the last two years (at the time), and then March managed to top it and be even worse. April was on track to surpass March through the first two weeks, but falling crowds in the second half of the month brought its average down.

February and March had average wait times of 45 and 46 minutes, respectively. April ended with an average wait time of 44 minutes, but it was really a tale of two months. For those wanting to put those numbers into historical context, the average wait times for the entirety of 2020 and 2021 were 33 and 32 minutes, respectively.

Thus far, May 2022 is closer to last year than the first few months of this year. Average time times this month across all of Walt Disney World have been 36 minutes thus far. That makes this the slowest month since last October, when the Delta wave and reinstated face mask rules combined to put a significant damper on the kickoff of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary festivities.

Now, let’s dig into the data to see what’s up with May 2022 wait times through the first half of the month. As always, all graphs and wait time stats are courtesy of Thrill-Data.com:

Above is a high level look at weekly wait time averages across the entirety of Walt Disney World.

The bars on the far right are the first two weeks of May 2022, showing another drop in wait times after they first fell off following Easter week and the conclusion of peak spring break season last month.

Once we get into individual days, you can see the precise point at which spring break crowds dropped off.

Wait times fell from April 20 through the first week of May 2022, at which point they bottomed out and rebounded slightly. They’ve settled into the 5/10 to 6/10 range the last week, which is almost exactly what we’d expect for Walt Disney World’s normal shoulder season between spring break and summer.

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

As with Walt Disney World as a whole, Magic Kingdom wait times hit a 9/10 level on April 20 and have been falling since. These days been downright average, with lots of 4/10 to 6/10 crowd level days in the last two weeks.

Note the 2/10 day in there, which is May 3. Wait times were atypically low that date due to the park closing at 4:30 pm for a Cast Member Service Celebration. This always happens on these early closing dates, as people without Park Hopper tickets avoid Magic Kingdom. There’s another such event coming up tomorrow, May 15, 2022 at Magic Kingdom. It’ll be another great day to visit!

Here are the specific averages for the first half of May 2022:

  • Jungle Cruise: 67 minutes
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 66 minutes
  • Peter Pan’s Flight: 63 minutes
  • Splash Mountain: 50 minutes
  • Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater: 48 minutes
  • Meet Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall: 44 minutes
  • Haunted Mansion: 44 minutes
  • Space Mountain: 43 minutes

The average Magic Kingdom wait time for this month thus far is 32 minutes, which is a sharp drop from last month. While there are a few attractions averaging over an hour, nothing is above 70 minutes, let alone the 96 minute average for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train last month. It’s also interesting to see Jungle Cruise as the #1 wait this month; its sustained popularity after the reimagining and film surprises us.

Two meet & greets once again made this list, which is not a huge surprise. In Automated Cameras Return to Mickey Mouse Meet in Magic Kingdom, we shared some anecdotal experiences with these high waits.

Suffice to say, the return of hugs & autographs is a big deal, and that coupled with low efficiency means these will likely be among the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World throughout the summer.

It’s a similar story at Animal Kingdom.

For some reason, there was a spike at the end of last month and first couple days of May, but crowd levels have since leveled off to the 5/10 to 6/10 range.

Here are the attraction averages for May 2022:

  • Avatar Flight of Passage: 95 minutes
  • Na’vi River Journey: 67 minutes
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris: 52 minutes
  • Kali River Rapids: 38 minutes
  • Expedition Everest: 34 minutes
  • Dinosaur: 22 minutes

The few other attractions in Animal Kingdom are all below 20 minutes.

While there are some high numbers here, Animal Kingdom sees far and away the most “conquerable crowds” at Walt Disney World. I’ll have reports soon on my morning and evening experiences there in the last couple of weeks, but the short version is: they were fantastic.

Also, actual waits are way below posted waits at Animal Kingdom at the beginning and end of the day. We’re talking everything except Avatar Flight of Passage as a near walk-on, including Na’vi River Journey.

We continue along to Epcot.

As always, wait times don’t tell the full story at Epcot…except when they sorta do. With the 2022 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival now being “old news” to most locals, World Showcase has been blissfully uncrowded this month. There are crowds towards the front for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind previews and it still gets bad with Park Hoppers around Harmonious, but overall, Epcot has been great. (We’ve also seen lots of Walk-Up Waitlist availability at pretty much every restaurant on a daily basis.)

As for specific attraction wait times at Epcot, here’s what we have for the first half of May 2022:

  • Frozen Ever After: 69 minutes
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 64 minutes
  • Test Track: 55 minutes
  • Soarin’ Around the World: 27 minutes
  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Royal Summerhaus: 24 minutes
  • Mission Space: 16 minutes

Nothing all that bad here, and it’s especially interesting to see Frozen Ever After starting to surpass Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Even the top trio are “beatable” early or late in the day. Not too bad, all things considered.

Finally, there’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

We always save DHS for last because it’s always the worst, an outlier in both wait times and “feels like” crowds. That’s definitely “less true” with this update, as our experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the last couple of weeks have been largely positive, minus some unlucky attraction breakdowns. (With that said, we visited on one of those 3/10 days last week, and it definitely felt more like a 6/10 day in a different park–up until the last 2 hours of the evening, which were gloriously uncrowded.)

Here are ride-by-ride wait times for Disney’s Hollywood Studios through mid-May 2022:

  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: 96 minutes
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 89 minutes
  • Slinky Dog Dash: 80 minutes
  • Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run: 60 minutes
  • Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams: 58 minutes
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 57 minutes
  • Toy Story Mania: 56 minutes
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 55 minutes
  • Meet Sulley at Walt Disney Presents: 35 minutes
  • Alien Swirling Saucers: 35 minutes

For the first time in several months, nothing at DHS is averaging a triple-digit wait. In fact, this is the lowest that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has been since the lull last fall; most evenings, it’s significantly lower than posted (assuming no breakdowns in the last few hours).

Here are a few notes about DHS wait times:

  • 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. Do it early.
  • The (excellent) Red Carpet Dreams featuring Mickey & Minnie takes the cake for the longest meet & greet wait time of the month. Red Carpet Dreams Was Removed from Genie+, but don’t expect its wait times to drop.
  • The Monsters, Inc. meet & greet at Walt Disney Presents also has long waits. It’s a great mid-morning option, as most people do it after lunch.
  • The falling wait times of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway should be viewed as a success story, not a lack of popularity. This attraction is an efficient “people-eater.”

This week, we shared our new 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary (Without Genie+), which accounts for all of these changes in crowd dynamics for the pre-summer season at DHS.

As a reminder, the 8 am official park opening time makes it easier to minimize wait times at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially if you’re staying on-site. We’ll have a new Early Entry strategy post soon, but the current ideal advice is starting in Galaxy’s Edge and cutting through Toy Story Land before beating the rope drop crowd to Sunset Boulevard.

Late nights are also great at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While crowds don’t fall off as much in the last few hours as they used to, posted wait times are still significantly lower than the 10 am to 4 pm timeframe. Actual waits are almost always even lower, too.

Additionally or alternatively, there’s Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Even if you’re only able to knock out 3-4 headliners with the paid FastPass service, Genie+ is arguably worth it at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We have several recent posts that are helpful on this front, including the following:

Looking forward, there’s no reason to expect the next two weeks to be any different than the last two weeks. As you can see from the Disney Park Pass calendar above, there are many dates that are yellow. On its face, that could be cause for concern…but several of these dates have been yellow since the middle of last month.

Rather than being concerned about the yellow dates, we’re optimistic that there’s still no grey–and that there are some green dates. Additionally, most of these yellow dates have availability in at least two parks, which helps with resort-wide wait times once Park Hopping starts. On some dates even before the Memorial Day weekend opening of Cosmic Rewind, the unavailable park is EPCOT, which frankly makes no sense given recent wait time data and our observations.

Honestly, I’m still not entirely sure how to account for these downright moderate crowd levels given the amount of yellow on the Disney Park Pass calendar thus far in May 2022. In particular, Magic Kingdom has been unavailable many dates, but you’d never know it by looking at wait time data.

It’s possible that meet & greets have helped better absorb some of the crowds, but those are mostly (incredibly) low capacity. It’s also possible that the longer hours helped better spread out crowds to some degree. Finally, it could be that the difference between yellow and grey means overall attendance is down, and that levels out (to some degree) once Park Hopping starts, leading to lower wait times overall.

Another theory is that cancellations have already started to pile up due to the rising costs of gas, airfare, and various other reasons–and those cancelled Park Passes aren’t being automatically added back into the inventory for some reason. If either are true, why wouldn’t Walt Disney World manually adjust the Park Pass system to add capacity? It just doesn’t add up entirely, and it’s likely that there’s no single explanation for the lower crowds–it’s probably a mix the above, plus other factors I’m not considering.

Basically, there’s no way attendance hasn’t been lower than in May 2022. Both the wait time data and our anecdotal observations as compared to March or April support this conclusion. This isn’t to say the parks are blissfully uncrowded or nowhere is busy–trying to navigate Main Street or World Showcase for the fireworks will disabuse you of that notion really quickly–but Walt Disney World definitely is not as jam-packed as it was during spring break. This is exactly what we’d expect in a normal year.

Ultimately, we’d say May 2022 has had “healthy crowds” for the first half of the month. Meaning that it’s the happy medium between uncrowded and unpleasantly crowded, with moderate wait times and congestion. This is definitely the best things have been since mid-January, and we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

That’s the big question…how long will it last?! Already, Disney Park Pass reservations are starting to fill up for June 2022, which is the start of summer vacation season at Walt Disney World. In a normal year, that doesn’t get into full swing until the Independence Day holiday, but June is still busier than May. That’s our expectation this year, too–that June will have elevated crowds as compared to this month, but won’t reach the peaks of spring break.

Of course, so much remains to be seen. If we’re already in the midst of a travel slowdown, the whole summer could be quieter than previously expected. Conversely, May could turn out to be an anomaly, with pent-up demand returning in full force the moment Cosmic Rewind opens to the general public. The last couple of years have taught us not to draw premature conclusions, as circumstances can change…and in a hurry! We’ll report back on how things are going at Walt Disney World in another couple weeks.

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 the first half of May 2022? Predictions on crowds for the rest of this month or Summer 2022? Think that this month will end up being significantly less busy than February through April, or are the moderate crowds of the last couple weeks a red herring? 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!