Crowd Levels at Disney World in May

It seems each year Walt Disney World continues to get more and more crowded. With new events and attractions constantly being added, it’s no surprise people are flocking to the parks more than ever. May will be a busy month in Walt Disney World, but it will not be the worst month of the year to go.

I’ll be sharing some Disney World tips, such notable the crowd levels in May at Disney World.  On top of that, I’ll discuss events going on around the World, and the best ways to maximize your time during your trip.

Times to Especially Avoid

  • Weekends (especially Saturdays)
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • The weekend before and week following Memorial Day.

Holidays at Disney will always be crowded. For one, Walt Disney World is always open, and two a lot of people have the day off or take the day off. It’s been my experience that any holiday, even ones you wouldn’t think would bring crowds to the parks, will bring crowds to the parks. You may not think Cinco de Mayo would be a big Disney holiday, but I can almost guarantee crowds will be up, especially in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion.

Mother’s Day weekend could see the Table Service restaurants filled with crowds. I could also see the Grand Floridian resort being a popular place this weekend because of their tea room.

Avoid Memorial Day weekend and the week following the holiday at all costs. Crowds will be very high at this time because many people have Memorial Day off of work and many kids are now out of school, so it’s easy to want to tack on a view extra vacation days. This weekend also signals the beginning of summer. Summer season is one of the busiest at Disney, so if you want to visit in May, go earlier in the month.

Weekends are going to be the busiest times this month, so arriving on a Sunday or Monday and leaving Friday or early on Saturday will be the best way to avoid crowds if you’re planning a longer trip. If you are planning a shorter trip, spending time in the parks during the middle of the week will probably be the best days to go. That way most of the weekend guests will have most likely left or not arrived yet.

Disney Events

There are various events taking place over the month of May at Walt Disney World. You may want to plan your trip around these events depending on if you want to participate in them, or avoid the crowds they bring in. 

One of the largest events this month is the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. This is the third full month of the festival, and it will go until May 28th, so this will be your last chance to catch it for the year. The event is free with your Epcot admission.

If you’re unfamiliar, this is one of the three big festivals Epcot does each year, and a favorite of many. With each of these festivals comes speciality food and drinks, entertainment, and commemorative souvenirs. Flower and Garden is the ultimate springtime festival with beautiful floral displays and character themed topiaries that can be seen all around the park. There’s also an exhibit in the Future World section of Epcot where you are surrounded by butterflies.

As I mentioned the Flower and Garden Festival brings lots of new foods and drinks to try. This includes the always popular violet lemonade slush and frushi (fruit sushi), plus many others. Most of the speciality food items will be found around the World Showcase.

Epcot also has a special entertainment series as put of the Flower and Garden Festival. Concerts are held Friday through Sundays by various bands. These take place in the outdoor theater area in the American pavilion of the World Showcase. If you want to find out more about the concert series you can check out the concert calendar here.

There is also an educational component to the Flower and Garden Festival. Around the World Showcase you can learn about various types of gardening and plants from around the world. And I as mentioned before there is the butterfly exhibit that is not only fun but also educational.

This event could cause Epcot to be a little more on the crowded side, however this will be going into the third month of the festival so it may not be as popular as it once was.  Also, to me at least, a crowded Epcot isn’t as bad as a crowded Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom. Epcot feels more spread out and there are so many areas to explore that even with crowds it doesn’t feel so bad. 

Another event at Walt Disney World this month is Star Wars Galactic Nights. This event will be on May 27th at Hollywood Studios. Though it is called Galactic “Nights” it looks like there is only one event scheduled for 2018. This is a special event that costs around $130 in addition to your park admission.

This event goes from 7 pm to midnight. It is considered a Star Wars “party,” so think along the lines of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (though with not as much to do). Probably the most exciting part of this event is a panel discussing the new Galaxy’s Edge area that is set to open in 2019. Disney claims this will be a “sneak peak” into the area with Imagineers.

While the event is going on, the park will be closed to other guests, so ride and character meet and greet lines will be much shorter. It looks like Rockin’ Roller Coaster won’t be operating during this event so you’ll only have three rides to choose from. This is going to be a peak weekend for Disney (this is the day before Memorial Day) and with the extra cost, unless this is a can’t miss for you event, I would recommend avoiding it.

Other Events

Events that I don’t think most Disney guests consider are the events taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on property. I think it’s always a good idea to check events here, but this was something I learned from experience. Events taking place there can increase crowds at Walt Disney World. I have personally gone to Disney World at a time I thought would be low crowd season but happened to be at the end of a cheerleading competition season. My resort (Pop Century) and the parks were much more crowded than I expected for the first few days of my trip. You can check out the event schedules here (there are cheer competitions the weekends of the 4th and 11th) but I would say these events will just add to the weekend business at Disney World.

Maximizing Your Time with Fast passes

One of the best ways to deal with crowds while at Disney World is to maximize your time by properly using Fast passes. Booking Fast passes for the most popular attractions, and the attractions you especially want to experience, will help you save time and have a great trip. Let’s look at the most popular rides.

In Animal Kingdom you will find the newest Disney World attractions, Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. These are both in the Pandora: The World of Avatar area of Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage is without a doubt the most popular ride at Walt Disney World right now. It’s only been open for about a year and it can still get two to three hour waits. Fast passes are also hard to secure for this ride because this ride is so popular. Your best chance for securing a Fastpass for this ride is to plan your time at Animal Kingdom toward the end of your trip. Fastpass booking is based on the first day of your trip, so a guest whose trip ending overlaps with the beginning of your trip would have first pick of those days. Picking Fast passes toward the end of your trip should be easier because there will be less people vying for these spots.

Na’vi River Journey will also have long waits because it is another new attraction with the Pandora expansion to Animal Kingdom. Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey are part of the same Tier within Disney’s Fastpass tier system. With this you can only book one or the other until you use both of your other Tier 2 Fast passes. It would make the most sense to book Flight of Passage first, and if you want to ride Na’vi River Journey it should be easier to book a Fastpass the day of, or you may be able to wait in standby. For more on the Tier System check this out.

Other Animal Kingdom ride favorites include Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Kilimanjaro Safari.  With the newer Avatar rides, these have become easier to score Fastpasses for. They are still popular attraction that get long waits so you’ll still want to get Fastpasses for these. These are all part of the Tier 2 rides so you can book any of these together.

In the Magic Kingdom, the rides that get the longest waits are the Mountains (Splash, Space, and Big Thunder) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a newer ride to the Magic Kingdom and the “Mountains” are classics. They also all fall under thrill rides (though they are tamer than thrill rides at the other parks). You should be able to get Fastpasses for these rides, but make sure you do get the Fastpasses! There’s no point in wasting an hour or two in standby for any one of these rides.

For Epcot, Frozen Ever After is probably the most popular ride. I have heard Fastpasses can be hard to get for this ride, but I used the trick of booking this toward the end of my last trip and I had no problem riding this ride.

Test Track is also another popular ride that gets long waits. Test Track and Frozen Ever After again are in the same Tier so you would only be able to book one or the other. The nice thing about Test Track is that there is a single rider option. Sometimes this line can even move faster than the Fastpass line. The only downside to this is you wouldn’t be able to sit with the rest of your party.

Hollywood Studios currently only has four ride attractions: Toy Story Midway Mania, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster. It would be a good idea to get a Fastpass for any of these rides because of the limited number of rides there are. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is probably the most popular ride currently, so if you want to ride, make this your top Fastpass pick.

Additional ways to Avoid Crowds

Head to the park early and come back later in the day. Crowds tend to be highest midday so using this time to take a break can help you avoid some of the peak crowd madness.

Spend time in Disney Springs. Disney Springs can get crowded too, but with so many shops and restaurants it’s easy to find calmer areas. Again you could take a midday park break and head here for lunch, shopping, or even a movie.

Final Thoughts

Walt Disney World in May is a fairly good month to visit the parks. If your main desire is to avoid crowds, this will be the last “moderate” crowd month before the peak summer season begins. My best advice for dealing with crowds in Disney is to stay relaxed, use Fastpasses, and take breaks away from the parks. Here’s to happy and safe travels to the most magical place on Earth!

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