Summer Crowds Heating Up at Disney World

16 min read


The summer season at Walt Disney World is only a couple weeks old, and crowd levels are starting to slowly heat up. This June 2023 wait times report covers ride & daily data for the month so far at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Plus, our anecdotal on-the-ground observations and predictions for July and beyond.

Our last few wait times reports covered shoulder season, highlighting the pre-summer slowdown playing out in the parks. That was addressed at length in Slowest Six Week Stretch at Walt Disney World Since 2021, which covered the degree to which wait times and attendance dropped following spring break.

In the end, May ended up being the least-busy month since last September. As the title of the above-referenced crowd report suggests, there was a stretch in April and May when crowds were at their lowest level since the 50th kicked off to surprising low numbers. Whenever crowds drop even a little, Disney fans and critics seize on the trend to validate their preconceived perspectives, and we saw that happen again in the last couple of months.

For some, there’s the hope or belief that boycotts are hurting attendance, causing cancellations, and people to be done with Disney. While it’s true that the Walt Disney Company’s reputation has taken a big hit in the last two-plus years, there’s yet to be any evidence that this is being felt at Walt Disney World.

Same goes with guest satisfaction, consumer-unfriendly practices, and everything else that Walt Disney World is doing to actively alienate fans and casual visitors. Admittedly, we want to see attendance normalize for the long-term health of Walt Disney World–especially its reputation and guest goodwill.

This isn’t to say people aren’t boycotting Walt Disney World or being priced out. We’ve heard from plenty who say they’re done visiting, so we know it’s happening to some degree. It is to say that to whatever extent that’s happening, it’s either a trivial number or offset by new visitors. The point is that attendance ebbs and flows throughout the year–something worth remembering in August and September when crowds next decline–and October through December when they spike again.

For us, the story is and has been one of pent-up demand. For almost a year, we’ve been searching for signs of a slowdown and normalization. This year’s shoulder season seemed to offer that. Not only was May the least-busy month since last September–the true off-season at Walt Disney World–but it was significantly slower than last May, with wait times down by roughly 20% year-over-year.

This was also reinforced by statements and actions from the company itself. Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro’s warned that Walt Disney World would see a “moderation” in demand this summer, even as he contended that Disneyland will continue to “perform exceptionally well.” This echoed earlier earnings call comments from CFO Christine McCarthy, who braced investors for a slowdown at Walt Disney World due to the end of the 50th Anniversary and exhaustion of pent-up demand.

To combat the end of “revenge travel” and normalization of attendance, Walt Disney World has started pulling “levers” to remedy the issue. Thus far, this has included the resumption of new Annual Pass sales and more being done to show appreciation to fans and locals, including VIPassholder Days featuring a free Figment magnet and lounge for APs.

Discounting has also gotten more aggressive. As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, Walt Disney World already has released over a dozen different discounts for 2023, which is more than were available for the entirety of last year. In addition to those resort-centric offers, last month saw the release of two new ticket deals for this summer, plus an increase in merchandise and dining discounts for Annual Passholders.

So there are clear signs and concessions by the company’s leaders that a slowdown is underway, which is also reinforced by mid-April and May crowd levels. It’s also not entirely straightforward. From the company’s perspective, a slowdown means lower revenue–not necessarily attendance. There can be a pullback in spending as visitors continue coming, but start being more cost-conscious–buying fewer souvenirs, splurging less on table service meals, buying Genie+ less frequently, etc.

Moreover, the idea would be that Walt Disney World pulling the aforementioned “levers” would, at least to some extent, offset the pullback. Between Walt Disney World’s active efforts to entice visitors and the start of summer tourist season, the dynamic is starting to shift as compared to shoulder season. Crowd levels are again on the rise at Walt Disney World–but the parks are still underperforming as compared to this same time last year.

As always, what’s covered in these “crowd” reports is actually posted wait time data that’s pulled from My Disney Experience and compiled into graphs for tracking and comparing various days, weeks, months, and years. A lot can be gleaned from posted wait times, but it’s not necessarily conclusive of in-park congestion or crowds. However, wait times are not the same as “feels like” crowds or congestion.

In short, wait times are an imperfect measure of Walt Disney World’s crowds, especially if you’re comparing current conditions to prior years. Walt Disney World attendance has increased by several million people over the course of the last decade-plus, so the vast majority of days in 2023 will be more crowded than their counterparts in 2015 or 2017.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the data and look at Walt Disney World wait times. As always, all graphs and stats are courtesy of

We’ll start with the monthly numbers for Walt Disney World as a whole. With an average wait time of 31 minutes, May ended up being tied with last September as the least-busy month of the last year. Normally, May is slower than spring break and summer, but nowhere near the fall off-season.

Wait times ended up being 9 minutes lower on average in May than in April. In actuality, the slowdown didn’t start in May–it happened in mid-April after Easter. The actual difference between spring break and shoulder seasons was ~15 minutes on average. That’s about an hour saved for every 4 attractions, which is a huge difference.

You can see from the graph above that June 2023 has started to bounce back from last month’s low, which is typical for the start of summer season. However, this month is still much lower than last June, with an average wait of 36 minutes in June 2023 as contrasted with 44 minutes last year.

Above is a look at weekly wait times at Walt Disney World. This shows pretty much exactly what you’d expect, and what we’ve been predicting–a steady and consistent increase since wait times bottomed out in mid-May. The weeks since have been both objectively low and below-trend as compared with shoulder and summer seasons during the prior two years.

With that said, the story becomes much more interesting when we zoom out and look at the resort-wide daily numbers for Walt Disney World thus far in 2023…

Here, it becomes obvious that crowds are up in June 2023, which is mostly ‘yellow’ days with crowd levels of 5/10 to 7/10. That’s a sharp contrast to the deep greens of last month, some of which were the least busy days since October 2021.

However, you’ll also notice two sets of green days in June 2023. There are consecutive 2/10 days followed by consecutive 1/10 days. Those are Saturdays and Sundays, which shouldn’t be a surprise at all to anyone who has been following 2023 crowds–this pattern emerged early on and accelerated during spring break.

When this trend first became apparent, we thought the Florida resident tickets excluding weekends and lack of Annual Passes were key causes. However, things haven’t really changed in a material way since the last promo ended, APs returned, or the new Floridian deal debuted and includes weekends.

Our leading theory now is that higher prices on park tickets, accommodations, and airfare over the weekends have caused many tourists to cut weekends from their trips. That was also a theory before, but we thought the local dynamic was as big of a factor, and it has not proven to be one. One final explanation is that a lot of Pixie Dust APs are in circulation, and those block out weekends.

Regardless of the reason, Saturday and Sunday have become the consistently least-crowded days at Walt Disney World as measured by wait times. In fact, if you remove the two weekends from the equation, the overall crowd level for June 2023 jumps from 2/10 to 5/10. Still below last year, but that’s a pretty significant shift. (Also, the month isn’t over–our expectation is that crowd levels continue to grow throughout this month and into July.)

Based on that, it would seem that Walt Disney World needs to pull one of its “levers” that gets people into the parks on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s only so much there that’s in their control–if more expensive airfare is a key impediment, obviously Disney cannot do anything about that. But there’s also a big difference in ticket and on-site resort prices between weekdays and weekends.

Above is a rate chart for standard rooms at Pop Century this month and next; this chart should look familiar to anyone who read our recent post about 2024 Walt Disney World Resort Price Increases. The difference is just as pronounced for the remainder of this year and all of 2024, so unless Walt Disney World starts releasing better discounts targeted at weekends, this dynamic might not change anytime soon.

(It’s interesting that a similar phenomenon occurred with Disney Vacation Club several years ago. Point charts were incredibly lopsided, requiring nearly double the points for weekends as compared with weeknights to discourage short weekend getaways. The imbalance had the opposite effect–DVC members used points on weekdays and did cash stays over the weekends to conserve points. To remedy that, Disney Vacation Club redistributed points to lessen the disparity and achieve the right balance. That was done over the course of multiple years. If 1/10 and 2/10 crowd levels persist on weekends, we doubt Walt Disney World will act quite that slowly.)

Over at Universal Orlando, the big-picture story is about the same–rising crow levels after a post-spring break slowdown. After seeing a Memorial Day weekend spike that was far sharper than Walt Disney World, weekday crowds are about on par between the two park operators. The big difference now is weekends.

To us, this suggests that airfare is probably not the main factor in explaining lower Saturday and Sunday numbers at Walt Disney World. After all, tourists to both theme park complexes are flying into the same airport. Aside from the weekends, though, there are no material differences in wait time trends at Universal versus Disney.

On a different note, Genie+ prices have been interesting. Since the start of June 2023, Genie+ has been priced at $20, $21, $22, $23, $24, and $25. Some of those amounts are new, as Walt Disney World seems to be getting more granular with pricing. (In the past, increments of at least $2 were the norm, with $5 swings occurring when entering peak season.)

Our guess is that this is some sort of test to assess demand…or something, as there’s often a disconnect between crowd levels and Genie+ pricing. Another possibility is that Walt Disney World’s internal attendance projections are missing the mark.

I spent every day at Walt Disney World for a week in June 2023 and my anecdotal experiences more or less align with the wait time data. It was noticeably less busy on the weekends as compared with the weekdays, and Sunday versus Monday at Magic Kingdom was a night and day difference. Ditto Saturday versus Tuesday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Even EPCOT felt less busy on the weekends once getting past the line outside Creations Shop for the Figment magnet and the AP “lounge” in Sunshine Seasons. World Showcase would normally be the disproportionately crowded portion of the park on weekends, and ‘feels like’ crowds there were about on par with what wait times would suggest.

My personal guess is that locals have gotten their fill of the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, which is now in its fourth month. (I’d be willing to bet it’s shortened next year.) I only spent a single day in Animal Kingdom, so can’t really comment on crowd dynamics there; it felt fine, though.

Rain and heat were definitely factors, with frequent afternoon showers (or the threat of them) and feels like temperatures in triple digit territory every day. This might’ve kept some locals at home, but it’s a non-factor for tourists. People are not cancelling trips at the last-minute due to 95-degree heat, and a brief afternoon monsoon doesn’t really push people to the exits. Those are known quantities for summers in Central Florida, anyway.

The biggest issue for me was ride breakdowns. This started with After Hours at EPCOT and continued…pretty much every single day! It was especially brutal when testing Early Entry and rope drop strategies, but served as a great and important reminder that downtime can throw a colossal monkey wrench into park plans. (Frustrating as it was, this was a “positive” for me as it broke a long string of good luck and brought my expectations for Early Entry and rope drop back to reality.)

Ride breakdowns impact anecdotal perceptions of crowds and fuel frustrations on an individual level, and I’m certainly not immune to that. This also served as a good reminder that a few unlucky breaks can dramatically dampen an experience. Conversely, a few lucky breaks move the needle in the other direction. In other words, luck matters a lot–and helps explain the wide range of opinions from guests who visit Walt Disney World around the same time.

On a positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by Happily Ever After crowds. Or rather, lack thereof. I watched the fireworks from Main Street on 2/10, 1/10, and 6/10 crowd days. Every single time, I staked out my spot under 20 minutes in advance and had room to set up my tripod.

Granted, I was closer to the Train Station than Cinderella Castle each of these times–and saw tons of people claiming spots over an hour in advance–but this was more reminiscent of the fall off-season with Disney Enchantment than summer with Happily Ever After. Although marked off, none of the overflow viewing areas were in use, either.

(To be very clear, Happily Ever After still draws colossal crowds and there’s a mass exodus after. All of that is still “bad” by historical standards–it’s just not nearly as bad as it was a year ago. In any case, this caught me by surprise, especially since the fan-favorite Happily Ever After has only been back for about 2 months at this point.)

Turning to forward-looking crowd forecast, we really don’t have anything to add or modify as compared to our 2023 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars or predictions in the last couple of crowd reports. (If you’ve already read those, you might as well skip this as it’s all rehashed.)

This coming week should be when we start to see tourists arrive in full force, whatever that means for Summer 2023. Even though attendance has been trending upwards, mid-June is normally when summer season really starts to begin. Crowds tend not to get bad until around the halfway point in June for a number of relatively simple and straightforward reasons.

For one, not every school district is out of session by Memorial Day. For another thing, families like to spread out their trips and don’t usually travel immediately after the school year ends or right before the next one begins. This is why crowds usually crest around Independence Day, building gradually up until early to mid-July, and declining steadily after that.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to make accurate numerical crowd level predictions for the remainder of June and July. Walt Disney World hasn’t experienced a “normal” summer in several years–since 2018. Last year, the second week of June ended up being the peak, which was due to rising oil/gas prices.

Before that, the resumption of normalcy followed by the COVID-comeback threw a monkey wrench into late summer crowds. Then there was the closure in 2020 and the pre-Star Wars slump in 2019. Almost all of those variables, with the possible exception of gas prices and the broader economy, will be nonfactors in Summer 2023 at Walt Disney World.

Given how many years it’s been since Walt Disney World has had an average summer, it’s exceedingly difficult to quantify what “normal” means on the 2023 crowd calendar. Our expectation is that most days in mid-June through July 2023, Walt Disney World does not get above 6/10 as a whole, with the peak being around 7/10. Maybe 8/10. It’s really hard to say, and there’s a wide range of possibilities given the circumstances.

If anything, predicting 6/10 average crowds for the bulk of Summer 2023 feels like erring on the side of higher predictions than what’ll happen, and most weeks actually won’t break 5/10 for the next two months. I’d rather prepare you for the worst and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around. Underpromise and overdeliver…except that isn’t really possible here, since some Walt Disney World fans seem to expect that “average” crowds means it’ll be possible to hula hoop on Main Street during Happily Ever After!

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 June 2023 thus far? Predictions on crowds for July or the duration of Summer 2023? 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!


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