People Are Turning Away From Disney Parks: "Absolutely Dead" on Former Peak Days
Visitors suggest several reasons why fewer people are booking trips.
For many of us, Disney parks are the ideal vacation destination: family-friendly, fun, and situated in warm climates. The only downsides are the cost and the fact that, because of their popularity, these parks are typically very crowded. There are entire websites and social media accounts dedicated to planning a Disney trip, many of which suggest visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland during the off-season to avoid the packed restaurants and long lines. But according to recent reports, the parks have been "absolutely dead" on former peak days. Read on to find out why people seem to be turning away from Disney parks.
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Summer is typically the busiest time for Disney parks.
The summer is the most popular time to visit Disney parks, with holiday weekends an especially busy time at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Meanwhile, according to WDW Magazine, Disney World guests should prepare for long lines and bigger crowds from the end of May through August. In fact, "crowds tend to be highest" at the Orlando, Florida, park around the Fourth of July holiday week. At least, that's been the case in the past.
According to DisneyFanatic.com, Walt Disney World was unusually empty on the weekend before July 4. The outlet reported that there were several activities planned ahead of the holiday, including the House of Mouse Independence Day festivities, Magic Kingdom's "Disney's Celebrate America! — A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky," and Epcot's "The Heartbeat of Freedom," but crowds were sparse.
Wait times were down.
A graph from Thrill Data shared by a Redditor on the "most magical" subreddit shows that over the holiday weekend, wait times at the Magic Kingdom were over 30 percent lower when compared with 2022 and 2019.
"Normally we avoid 4th of July weekend like the plague, so I was surprised to see how low the wait times were at [Magic Kingdom] today," the Redditor wrote. "Especially considering it's historically one of the busiest times of the year at [Walt Disney World]."
The Redditor also noted that the decreased wait times at the Magic Kingdom were consistent with other parks at Walt Disney World, according to Thrill Data, while Disneyland and other theme parks in the Orlando area were closer to their usual averages.
Visitors said the parks were borderline empty.
On Twitter, a visitor gave a first-hand account of the decreased crowds.
"I am here on vacation and we've been to all four Disney parks and both Universal parks since Saturday: I've been extremely [surprised] by the short wait times," they wrote on July 4, noting that while they have a pass to skip the line, parks were still less crowded. "Hollywood studios was a ghost town this morning. Epcot was very empty Sunday."
In response, a visitor wrote that they thought they'd picked "a really busy weekend to come, but turns out it is the exact opposite." However, they did cite the abnormally high Florida heat as a deterrent.
On Reddit, one visitor wrote that Hollywood Studios was "absolutely dead" on the Fourth, while another said that they "couldn't believe how short the lines were."
This isn't the first time this has happened in 2023, as Inside the Magic reported a similar situation in May. On another Reddit thread, one user wrote that Magic Kingdom was "barren," although others argued that this "is normal for May" and an expected lull following spring break.
There may be a few reasons why fewer people are headed to Disney.
On Reddit, many speculated why July 4 saw a dip in visitors. Some suggested that people have already "caught up on their pandemic-delayed vacations," while others pointed to inflation, more expensive airfare, and the heat.
"I think it's two things. Tighter budgets. You can go to universal and stay at a cheaper hotel with the similar perks as a Disney one if you're going to the park. And two is Disney has made it much more difficult to plan vacations," a Redditor wrote.
Some said that more data is needed to really determine what state the parks are truly in, namely hotel occupancy, overall attendance, and revenue. Others argued that shorter wait times might be the result of Disney's new Genie+ add-on feature, which gives visitors more front-of-line access, and varies in price depending on when you visit and how busy the parks are.
Lower attendance is part of a larger problem.
In general, Disney may be in some trouble. Earlier this month, Fox Business reported that Disney's stock was downgraded by KeyBanc Capital Markets.
The downgrade was attributed to stalled subscriber growth on Hulu and Disney+, as well as a general disinterest in paying for the company's ESPN streaming service. But the investment advisory company also cited lower theme park attendance in April and May—including both Disneyland and Disney World—which didn't match Disney's high expectations.
Disneyland had its 100th Anniversary celebration this year, which did yield higher attendance, but paled in comparison to Disney World's 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021, Fox Business reported.
Analyst Brandon Nispel also told Yahoo Finance these issues could be compounded by Disney's new labor contract in Florida and the depreciation of the soon-to-close Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel.