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  • Writer's pictureBrenda

Navigating the Crowds

Updated: May 13

Crowds at Walt Disney World can be intimidating and overwhelming. Let's look at our best tips and tricks for navigating your Walt Disney Vacation while managing the sea of people at the resort and minimizing the time your spend in crowded areas.

Several of our family members have trouble with crowded places. Since WDW is a place they love to travel, we've taken note of where the bottleneck areas are at each park and the times of day that the crowds can be overwhelming. We've come up with plans and strategies to help them manage with the least amount of panic possible. We always visit the parks early in the day, making sure to arrive before opening. During particularly crowded times we know we need to pack our patience, find a quiet place to regroup, or be willing to let go and leave the parks for a bit, returning near the end of the day. Here are our best tips and ticks for each of the WDW theme parks.

Animal Kingdom

  • The main walking area in Africa always feels excessively crowded. Between it being the main pathway to Kilimanjaro Safaris, the location of the bathroom in that area, the entrance to the popular character dining experience, Tusker House Restaurant, and the location where the Tam Tam Drummers play, the pathway often becomes an overcrowded bottleneck. To avoid it when heading to Kilimanjaro Safaris, we recommend hooking a right after you get over the bridge from Discovery Island, and then hooking a left and going by the Harambe Market. You’ll be walking a little longer, but you’ll avoid the bulk of the crowd.

  • The intersection where you can go left for Pandora or right for Africa on Discovery Island is a bottleneck, with lots of people heading in both to and from each land. There is not an alternative if you are coming from Discovery Island going to one of the two lands. However, if you are heading from Pandora heading to Africa, or vice versa, there is a path between the two that goes virtually unused.

  • If you are heading to get in line for Expedition Everest from late morning through early evening, be prepared to wade through a crowd. Part of this is because the entrance and exit to the ride are very close together, so people coming and going are weaving around each other. To the right, not far from the entrance and right by the exit, is where people can go to watch other guests riding. This is a popular area for people to hang out while waiting for family members to ride which further exacerbates the congestion in this area. The only way to really avoid this is to get Expedition Everest done early in the day and not return to that section of the park.

  • When you are on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail there is a viewing area for the gorillas where you can get right up close to the animals. This is where they feed the female and baby gorillas, so you can get really good views of them for most of the day. However, this viewing area is almost always super crowded. To get to the windows in front you have to battle through the crowd and be willing to shove your way in front of people because it is a bit of a free for all there. If you are okay battling through the crowd, it’s really neat to see them up close. For guests who are not cut throat enough, or just don’t want to deal with the crowd, further up on the trail you can get some great views of the male gorillas. The views aren’t as close up but still decent. Plus, since most people just waded through the crowd to see the gorillas at the windowed area, very few people stop to see the male gorillas so you won’t be fighting the crowd.


  • As you enter the park, through the main entrance, the first attraction you will come to is Spaceship Earth. Often, around mid-morning for a couple of hours, the wait time for this attraction will spike. This is because many people will stop and join the queue as they enter the park from 9am to 10am. We recommend either lumping it in with some shortly after opening riding, or wait until after lunch to ride. This is also a great ride to grab a later in the day Genie+ return time for, as there is often still availability.

  • There is a popular quick service restaurant inside the Land Pavilion, Sunshine Seasons. As a result, around lunch time inside the Land Pavilion can get hectic and crowded. In addition, many people will plan to ride either Soarin’ Around the World or Living with the Land while they are there, so wait times will often spike for a bit around then.

  • Less about navigating the crowd at Epcot and more about avoiding one at the other parks: if you want to meet Mickey Mouse and are not particular about where you meet him, Epcot is a great place to do it. Over in the Imagination Pavilion, as you enter the Magic Eye Theater, there is currently a Mickey meet and greet that often has only a short wait.

  • Main promenade around the World Showcase can feel very congested during peak travel times. The one area that seems to always be overly crowded is the outside area of the Mexico pavilion. This is a result of multiple restaurants situated to one side along the water area, the main pyramid to the other side, a snack stand (with margaritas) on one side of the pyramid, and a popular character meet and greet to the other. All of this plus the more narrow walkway to make room for it all makes this area particularly intense. We are not particular proponents of starting on one side of the World Showcase over another, but if crowds are really not your thing and you are entering the World Showcase around lunch, like many people, then we recommend going through Canada first and ending in Mexico at the end of your evening when things will have calmed down somewhat.

  • Typically people will tackle the park front to back, with peak crowds in World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature starting around 10am. Those crowds will then start migrating into World Showcase starting around lunch through the early afternoon. By the early evening many of the attractions toward the front of the park will have lower wait times as many people are now touring the World Showcase.

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and need to find a quiet area to take a breather, wind back into either the Canada Pavilion or the Morocco Pavilion. Both of these have secluded areas that rarely have many, if any, people hanging out in them.

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Land is an incredibly popular area of the park, and there is a lot going on in a relatively small area of the park. Between the three rides, two dining locations, and several character meet and greets, Toy Story Land often feels like the busiest area of the park. If you look on a map, many other areas of the park have more going on, but Toy Story Land has no shops or alcoves for people to duck off into. Consequently, all of the foot traffic is on the one main pathway and the feeling of crowdedness reflects this.

  • As you may imagine, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is filled with people. However, it covers such a large footprint, and there is so much to see and do, it often doesn’t feel that crowded except in a couple different pinch points. The first of these is along the open air market area, called The Market Merchants. There are a number of different small shops on either side of the market that people are dashing between, one of the bathrooms in Galaxy’s Edge is at one end of this area, and a lot of people use it as a path between where the Millennium Falcon sits and the main path towards Rise of the Resistance and then on to the rest of the park. Consequently, this small area can get overrun with people. The area between Docking Bay 7 and the Millennium Falcon can also get congested, especially right after lunch time. Lots of people will stop off for lunch at Docking Bay and then go over for photos with the Millennium Falcon before hopping in line for Smuggler’s Run.

  • If you are in need of a caffeine fix, we recommend the Joffrey’s behind Tower of Terror. Since it is a bit more off the beaten path, it’s line is typically shorter and goes quicker than the Joffrey’s by Toy Story Land.

  • Woody’s Lunch Box is one of the best quick service locations in Hollywood Studios, and everyone knows it. Consequently, it is often very crowded and getting a table is very hard. If you have packed your patience, and persistence, then it’s a great place to grab lunch. Otherwise, we recommend going somewhere where tables are not snapped up before you even knew they were empty.

  • Fantasmic! draws a huge amount of people during its evening showing. If you don’t want to watch the show, this is a great time to get in some rides, as the wait times will drop for most of the attractions around the park.

  • Unless you are there when the park is super crowded, it’s fine to head over to Fantasmic! shortly before it starts. You won’t be in the front row seats, but the show is one where you don’t have to be right near the front, or even right in the center, to get a good view. If you are looking to be near the front, then you should head over 45 minutes to an hour early.

  • Once Fantasmic! is over, if the park is still open, you have two choices when leaving the theater area: either returning the way you came in (lots of people will be doing this so just follow the crowd), or keep going all the way to the very left of the theater and follow a path that will lead you to the front of the park.

  • If the park is closed after Fantasmic! Everyone will be directed down the path that leads to the front of the park.

  • Tower of Terror & Rock’n’Roller Coaster line will jump at the end of the day before and after Fantasmic!

Magic Kingdom

  • Haunted Mansion will always see an uptick in wait time around meal times, especially lunch. This is because Columbia Harbour House is right across from Haunted Mansion, so many families will grab a bite to eat and then hop in the line for Haunted Mansion (or vice versa).

  • Adventureland is always busier after lunch through the evening. This is because early entry filters people through Tomorrowland, then at the official park opening everyone bee-lines for Fantasyland, and it takes a while for the crowds to matriculate over into Adventureland.

  • As Fantasyland ramps up in the morning you can often still find little to no wait at Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid. This is because there are lots of other rides for people to stop at on the way to that back corner, so when Peter Pan is sitting at 30 minutes or more in wait time, there is a good chance that The Little Mermaid is still at 5 minutes.

  • Shortly after lunch there really isn’t a good part of the park left any more, this is when we recommend either taking a break and going back to the hotel, or taking in some shows which will have short waits and provide a good break from the crowds.

  • If the fireworks are not important to you (we recommend seeing them at least once), many of the wait times will plummet starting about 20 minutes before the fireworks begin. This is because the majority of park goes have gone to mob in front of the castle to watch the spectacle.

  • There are a couple different bottleneck points in the park, they sometimes are not avoidable but knowing about them is better than being surprised. When going from Fantasyland to Liberty Square the walk area in front of Peter Pan and “it’s a small world” is often incredibly crowded with people trying to go in every direction. In front of Big Thunder Mountain there is a similar issue, except here because this is at the end of a path there are people trying to get to the ride, people standing in the overflow queue, people waiting who didn’t want to ride, and people trying to leave the area.

  • After the fireworks the bulk of the crowd will turn and head up Main Street, USA, and out of the park. It is a massive flood of people that is hard to navigate. We don’t recommend anyone who dislikes crowds or who has claustrophobia joining the hordes of people heading out. Further, if you join the crowd this is when the line for the buses will be the longest. To avoid being a part of the throngs of people flooding down Main Street, USA we recommend simply staying put or, if the park isn’t closing right then, venturing into the park to do an attraction or find a snack.

  • The shops on Main Street, USA are absolutely nuts after the fireworks. Plenty of people, on their way out of the park, duck into the shops, either to escape the people outside or to do a last round of shopping before calling it a night. If you want to do shopping on Main Street, USA, without half the park surrounding you, we recommend you try to do it earlier in the day or accept that they will be absolutely chaotic as people are leaving after the fireworks.

  • If the park does remain open after the fireworks, and you decide to go ride another ride, don’t stop at the first ride you come to. The posted wait will be short, because it was short during the fireworks, but it just hasn’t caught up yet. If you stop at the closest ride to the hub, for example Jungle Cruise, you can expect to wait at least 20-30 minutes to ride if not longer because many other people also stopped there.


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