When to Go to Walt Disney World

Why do they name it vacationer season if we are able to’t shoot them?

—Palatka, Florida, outdoorsman

SELECTING THE TIME OF YEAR FOR YOUR VISIT

WALT DISNEY WORLD IS BUSIEST Christmas Day thru New Yr’s Day. Additionally extraordinarily busy are Thanksgiving weekend, the week of Presidents Day, the primary full week of November, spring damage for schools, and late March throughout the 0.33 week of April. On only a single day in these height occasions, as many as ninety two,000 individuals have toured the Magic Kingdom! This degree of attendance isn’t standard—most effective folks who merely can’t go at another time will have to sort out the parks at their top.

The least busy time is from Labor Day in September throughout the starting of October. Subsequent slowest are the 2d full week of November throughout the weekend previous Thanksgiving, the week after Thanksgiving unless the week prior to Christmas, January four in the course of the first week of February (excluding the Martin Luther King Jr. vacation weekend and the weekend of the Disney World Marathon), and the final week of April via early June. Late February, March, and early April are dicey. Crowds ebb and float in step with spring-wreck schedules and the timing of Presidents Day weekend. Although crowds have grown in September and October on account of promotions aimed toward locals and the world market, these months proceed to be excellent for weekday traveling on the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and for weekend visits to Epcot.

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In our opinion, the chance of encountering less warm climate and closed sights all over an low season discuss with to Walt Disney World is value it.

A household who vacationed all through the sluggish length following the Thanksgiving vacation had this to assert:

My household went down when the Christmas decorations had been up, and it was once AMAZING! The decorations have been fantastic and put you in simply the proper temper for the vacations. It leaves you speechless, particularly whilst you see the fort on the Magic Kingdom lit up at night time.

The Draw back of Off-Season Visiting

Although we strongly counsel going to Disney World within the fall, iciness, or spring, there are a couple of change-offs. The parks steadily open late and shut early all through the low season. Once they open as late as 9 a.m., everybody arrives at about the identical time. A late opening coupled with an early closing extensively reduces journeying hours. Even when crowds are small, it’s troublesome to look large parks such because the Magic Kingdom between 9 a.m. and seven p.m. Early closing (ahead of eight p.m.) additionally frequently method no night parades or fireworks. And since these are gradual occasions, some rides and sights is also closed. At last, Principal Florida temperatures fluctuate wildly all through late fall, wintry weather, and early spring; daylight hours highs within the 40s and 50s aren’t distinguished.

Given the selection, then again, smaller crowds, cut price costs, and stress-free travelling are price risking chilly climate or closed points of interest. Travelling in fall and different “off” classes is a lot more straightforward that our analysis group, on the possibility of being blasphemous, would endorse taking youngsters out of college for a Disney World discuss with.

Most readers who’ve tried Disney World at more than a few occasions agree. A father of two from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, writes:

Taking your youngsters out of faculty—is it price it? Sure! It was once genuine that lacking per week of faculty would location your youngster to this point at the back of it might take months for her or him to regain that misplaced week. No longer so these days. With strengthen training, this used to be no downside. With not up to an hour of homework after dinner, our children went again to highschool with assignments accomplished and no make-up work. But it surely was once all these different hours without a traces and no warmth that had been the true payoff.

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As an alternative of taking the children out of college, believe scheduling your Disney World shuttle instantly following the ultimate week of faculty within the spring or right through the week sooner than college beginning within the fall. The crowds will likely be neatly under summer season height.

There’s some other facet to this story, and we’ve bought some neatly-regarded as letters from folks and lecturers who don’t assume taking youngsters out of college is this sort of sizzling thought. From a father in Fairfax, Virginia:

My spouse and I are disillusioned that you just appear to be encouraging households to take their kids out of college to keep away from the crowds at WDW all the way through the summer season months. My spouse is an eighth-grade trainer of chemistry and physics. She has oldsters pull their youngsters, some honor-roll college students, out of faculty for holidays, best to find once they return that the scholars are unable to realize the fabric. Folks’ suspicions concerning the high quality of their kids’s training must be raised when youngsters go to highschool for six hours a day but supposedly can full this related guideline with “lower than an hour of homework” every evening.

A Martinez, California, trainer deals this compelling analogy:

There are a treasured a hundred and eighty days for us as lecturers to coach our college students, and there are 185 days throughout the 12 months for Disney World. I’ve viewed numerous college students all the way through my 14 years of educating combat to trap up the remainder of the 12 months as a result of per week of trip right through essential tutorial sessions. The analogy I take advantage of with my college students’ oldsters is that it’s like strolling out of a film after observing the primary 5 minutes, then returning for the remaining 5 minutes and attempting to determine what came about.

However a trainer from Penn Yan, New York, sees issues otherwise:

I’ve learn the feedback by means of lecturers announcing that all of them assume it’s horrible for a mother or father to take a baby out for a trip. As a instructor and a father or mother, I disagree. If a mother or father takes the time to tell us that a baby goes to be out, we lend a hand them prepare for upcoming homework the most effective we will. If the baby is an efficient scholar, why shouldn’t they go have an exquisite expertise with their household? I additionally don’t take into account when academics say they may be able to’t get one thing collectively for the time the scholar will probably be out. All of us have to devise in advance, and we all know what we’re educating days, if now not weeks, prematurely. Take 20 minutes out of your day and set one thing up. Examine to be versatile!

BE UNCONVENTIONAL The Orange County Conference Heart in Orlando hosts one of the biggest conventions and exchange presentations on the planet. Rooms anyplace close to Walt Disney World are arduous to seek out when there’s an important conference, and as this Toronto, Ontario, reader factors out, are additionally dear:

If saving cash on lodging is a very powerful a part of your go back and forth, be sure you test charges on the Internet prior to you choose a date. Change presentations on the Orange County Conference Heart can host over one hundred,000 attendees, with most of them staying one to a room. This drives charges on even moderate residences to 2 or thrice standard charges. Due to the fact that all huge conventions are scheduled over three hundred and sixty five days out, these spikes in room charges must be seen as much as one year prior.

That you would be able to test the conference agenda on the Orlando Orange County Conference Middle for the subsequent seven months at occc.net/global/calendar.

DON’T FORGET AUGUST Kids go back to school pretty early in Florida (and in a lot of other places, too). This makes mid- to late August a good time to visit Walt Disney World for families who can’t vacation during the off-season. A New Jersey mother of two school-age children spells it out:

The end of August is the PERFECT time to go (just watch out for hurricanes, it’s the season). There were virtually no wait times, 20 minutes at the most.

A mom from Rapid City, South Dakota, agrees:

School starts very early in Florida, so our mid-August visit was great for crowds, but not for heat.

And from a family from Roxbury, New Jersey:

I recommend the last two weeks of August for anyone traveling there during the summer. We have visited twice during this time of year and have had great success touring the parks.

1. Magic Kingdom (WDW) 17.1 mi ion + 1%
Disneyland 16.1 mi ion + 1%
Epcot 10.8 mi ion
Disney’s Animal Kingdom 9.8 mi ion + 1%
Disney’s Hollywood Studios 9.7 mi ion + 1%
Universal’s Islands of Adventure 7.7 mi ion +29%
Disney California Adventure 6.3 mi ion + 1%
Universal Studios Florida 6.0 mi ion +2%
SeaWorld Orlando 5.2 mii ion +2%
Universal Studios Hollywood 5.1 mi ion +2%
TVPICAL EXTRA MAGIC HOURS SCHEDULE (frequently varies)
MORNING
MON TUES WED THUR FRI SAT SUN
AnimalKingdom Epcot MagicKingdom AnimaiKingdom DHS
EVENING
MON TUES WED THUR FRI SAT SUN
DHS Epcot MagicKingdom

HIGH-LOW, HIGH-LOW, IT’S OFF TO DISNEY WE GO Though we recommend off-season touring, we realize that it’s not possible for many families. We want to make it clear, therefore, that you can have a wonderful experience regardless of when you go. Our advice, irrespective of season, is to arrive early at the parks and avoid the crowds by using one of our touring plans. If attendance is light, kick back and forget the touring plans.

WE’VE GOT WEATHER! Long before Walt Disney World, tourists visited Florida year-round to enjoy the temperate tropical and subtropical climates. The best weather months generally are October, November, March, and April. Fall is usually dry, whereas spring is wetter. December, January, and February vary, with average highs of 72°–73°F intermixed with highs in the 50°–65°F range. May is hot but tolerable. June, July, August, and September are the warmest months. Rain is possible anytime, usually in the form of scattered thunderstorms. An entire day of rain is unusual.

CROWD CONDITIONS AND THE BEST AND WORST PARKS TO VISIT FOR EACH DAY OF THE YEAR We receive thousands of e-mails and letters inquiring about crowd conditions on specific dates throughout the year. Readers also want to know which park is best to visit on each day of their stay. For each date, we offer a crowd-level index based on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being least crowded and 10 being most crowded. Our calendar takes into account all holidays, special events, and more, as described on the next page. The same calendar lists the best and worst park(s) to visit in terms of crowd conditions on any given day. Collecting data for the Crowd Calendar requires us to have researchers in the parks year-round. Thus, to keep the calendar current on a daily basis, we have to charge a modest subscription fee. The same fee also provides access to additional touring plans and other features. Owners of the current edition of the guide are eligible for a substantial discount on the subscription.

A Bristol, Tennessee, couple had good luck with the calendar:

The UG Crowd Calendar is 100% accurate. We love it and will continue to use it every trip. We even tested it in heavy-duty crowds just to see if it worked, and you were dead-on correct!

But a Braintree, Massachusetts, woman cautions:

It should be emphasized that parks can still feel really crowded on a low-crowd day, especially the Magic Kingdom. But you will notice the difference when you see the wait times for the rides. Anyone expecting to have room to roam freely in certain parts of the Magic Kingdom on a low attendance day will be disappointed. The same is true for Animal Kingdom: We went there on a “low” attendance day in the afternoon, and it was extremely congested and difficult to walk through some areas of the park.

HOW WE DETERMINE CROWD LEVELS AND BEST DAYS A number of factors contribute to the models we use to predict both crowd levels and the best days to visit each theme park.

Data we use to predict crowd levels:

  • Historical theme park hours from the same time period in past years
  • Disney’s special-events calendar (for example, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party)
  • Legal holidays in the United States
  • Public-school schedules (including spring-break schedules for the 50 largest public-school districts east of the Mississippi, plus Massachusetts and Connecticut)
  • Weekly historical occupancy rates for Orlando-area hotels
  • Central Florida tourism demographics

Historical park hours include the actual operating hours for all of the theme parks over the past five years. Special events include everything from official Walt Disney World–sanctioned events to such independent events as Gay Days. Our hotel data contains weekly occupancy rates for seven different areas within the Orlando market, including the key Disney-area hotels in Lake Buena Vista, in the greater International Drive–Universal Orlando area, in Kissimmee, and along US 192 (Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway). Our Central Florida tourism demographics cover everything from where Orlando visitors come from and how long they stay to how many people make up each party and which theme parks they visit.

Data we use to determine the best days for each park:

  • Actual wait-time statistics gathered in the parks
  • Our own surveys of Disney guests’ touring habits
  • Disney’s Extra Magic Hours schedule
  • Special events calendars
  • U.S. legal holidays
  • Outside sources (such as the U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports)

SOME EXCEPTIONS You’ll occasionally see a particular recommendation in the calendar that contradicts general advice given in this guide. As an example, we’ve recommended Epcot on the Tuesday before Christmas in the past, even though Tuesday is typically Epcot’s morning Extra Magic Hour day. Why? Because Epcot is the best park to be in when crowds are large, as they are around Christmas. The effect of additional crowds from Epcot’s morning Extra Magic Hours pales in comparison to the effect of holiday crowds in the other parks, especially the Magic Kingdom. In this case, Epcot is not so much a “good” choice as it is the proverbial lesser evil.

Likewise, we’ll occasionally recommend the Magic Kingdom on a Thursday or Monday, especially during the slower months, even if there’s a special event like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party scheduled there. This is because we’re trying to recommend each park at least once in any seven-day period so that families taking a weeklong vacation can be sure to visit each park on at least one day. When all the other rules used don’t fulfill this requirement, we’re forced to make another of those lesser-evil recommendations.

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You’ll need to have a Park Hopper option on your admission ticket to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours at more than one theme park on the same day.

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS is a perk for families staying at a Walt Disney World resort, including the Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green, and the Hilton in the Downtown Disney resort area. On selected days of the week, Disney resort guests will be able to enter a Disney theme park 1 hour earlier or stay in a selected theme park about 2 hours later than the official park-operating hours. Theme park visitors not staying at a Disney resort may stay in the park for Extra Magic Hour evenings, but cannot experience any rides, attractions, or shows. In other words, they can shop and eat.

Because Extra Magic Hours figure so prominently in our Crowd Calendar calculations, and because Disney is constantly rearranging the Extra Magic Hours schedule for each theme park, we’ve been forced to withdraw the calendar from the website.

We should also mention that the swimming theme parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, also offer Extra Magic Hours.

WHAT’S REQUIRED? A valid admission ticket is required to enter the park, and you must show your Disney Resort ID when entering. For evening Extra Magic Hours, show your Disney Resort ID if you want to experience any of the rides or attractions, or just show up at the park turnstiles at any time after evening Extra Magic Hours begin.

WHEN ARE EXTRA MAGIC HOURS OFFERED? The regular Extra Magic Hours schedule is subject to constant change, especially during holidays and other periods of peak attendance. Gone are the days when you could be certain which park was running Extra Magic Hours.

You can phone Walt Disney World Information at  407-824-4321 or 407-939-6244 (press 0 for a live representative).

We seriously hope that Disney will adopt a permanent schedule, but if it doesn’t, use the information available from Walt Disney World Information, the official website. To avoid the most crowded park, simply steer clear of the one(s) offering Extra Magic Hours.

WHAT DO EXTRA MAGIC HOURS MEAN TO YOU? Crowds are likely to be larger when the theme parks host an Extra Magic Hours session. If you’re not staying at a Disney resort, we suggests avoiding the park hosting Extra Magic Hours, if at all possible.

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, there are a couple of strategies you can employ to cut down on your wait in lines. One strategy is to avoid the park hosting Extra Magic Hours entirely, if possible.

If you can be at the park when it opens, a second strategy would be to visit the park offering a morning Extra Magic Hours session until lunchtime, then visit another, less-crowded park in the afternoon. This strategy would allow you to take advantage of smaller morning crowds to visit the headliner attractions in one park, then take a slower, more relaxed tour of another park in the afternoon. For example, you might visit the Magic Kingdom Thursday morning, seeing as much of Tomorrowland or Fantasyland as possible during Extra Magic Hours, then visit the rest of the park until lunch. Before the Magic Kingdom crowds peaked in the early afternoon, you’d leave for Epcot and spend the rest of the day there.

Consider two things if choosing between morning or evening Extra Magic Hours sessions: first, whether your family functions better getting up early or staying up late, and second, the time at which the parks close to day guests. If you can handle those early mornings, you’ll find shorter lines during morning Extra Magic Hours. Evening Extra Magic Hours are most useful when the crowds are low and the parks close relatively early to the general public, so your family doesn’t have to stay up past midnight to take advantage of the perk.

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Whatever edge resort guests gain by taking advantage of early entry is offset by horrendous crowds later in the day. During busier times of year, regardless of your hotel, avoid any park on the day it’s scheduled for early entry.

EARLY ENTRY (A.K.A. MORNING EXTRA MAGIC HOURS)

THE EARLY-ENTRY PROGRAM APPLIES to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks. Several days of the week, Disney resort guests are invited to enter a designated theme park 1 hour before the general public. During the early-entry hour, guests can enjoy attractions opened early just for them.

How Early Entry Affects Attendance at the Theme Parks

Early entry strongly affects attendance at the theme parks, especially during busier times of year. Vast numbers of Disney resort guests tour whichever park is designated for early entry. If the Magic Kingdom is tapped for early entry on Thursday, for example, it’ll be more crowded that day, while Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be less crowded. Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and the Studios will be more crowded when those parks are slated for early entry.

During holiday periods and summer, when Disney hotels are full, early entry makes a tremendous difference in crowds at the designated park. The program funnels so many people into the early-entry park that it fills by about 10 a.m. and is practically gridlocked by noon.

If you elect to use your early-entry privileges, be among the first early entrants. A mother of three from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, writes:

Our first full day at WDW, we went to the Magic Kingdom on an early-entry day for resort guests. We were there at 7:30 a.m. and were able to walk onto all the rides in Fantasyland with no wait. At 8:45 a.m. we positioned ourselves at the Adventureland rope and ran toward Splash Mountain when the rope dropped. We were able to ride Splash Mountain with no wait and then Big Thunder with about a 15-minute wait. We then went straight to the Jungle Cruise and the wait was already 30 minutes, so we skipped it. The park became incredibly crowded as the day progressed, and we were all exhausted from getting up so early. We left the park around noon. After that day, I resolved to avoid early-entry days and instead be at a non-early-entry park about a half-hour before official opening time.

This note from a North Bend, Washington, dad emphasizes the importance of arriving at the beginning of the early-entry period.

We only used early entry once—to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We got there 20 minutes after early entry opened, and the wait for Tower of Terror was 1½ hours long without Fastpass. We skipped it.

A Baltimore mother of a 3-year-old reports:

We chuckled to ourselves on our first day when we watched hordes of people attempt to pack onto an Animal Kingdom shuttle for Extra Magic Hours. We were the only family on the Epcot shuttle that morning and didn’t wait for any rides the entire day!

But a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, mom evidently had the worst experience of all:

Disney Hollywood Studios was a MADHOUSE. Do NOT go on Extra Magic Hours days. After spending about 3 hours to ride three rides, I just wanted to trample the people stampeding to the exit.

Early Entry and Park-Hopping

An alternative strategy for Disney resort guests is to take advantage of early entry, but only until the designated park gets crowded. At that time, move to another park. This plan works particularly well at the Magic Kingdom for families with young children who love the attractions in Fantasyland. However, it will take you about an hour to commute to the second park of the day. If, for example, you depart the Magic Kingdom for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 10 a.m., you’ll find the Studios pretty crowded when you arrive at about 11 a.m. Keeping these and other considerations in mind, here are some guidelines:

  1. Use the early-entry–park-hopping strategy during the less busy times of year when the parks close early. You’ll get a jump on the general public and add an hour to what, in the off-season, is an already short touring day.
  2. Use the early-entry–park-hopping strategy to complete touring a second park that you’ve already visited on a previous day, or specifically to see live entertainment in the second park.

Never hop to Disney’s Animal Kingdom—it’s almost always the first park to close each evening, so arriving later than 2 p.m. for the handful of remaining hours is not generally a good use of time, plus it will be too crowded by the time you arrive.

On any day except the park’s Extra Magic Hours days, hopping to Epcot is usually good. Epcot is able to handle large crowds better than any other Disney park, minimizing the effects of a midday arrival. Also, World Showcase has a large selection of interesting dining options, making it a good choice for evening touring.

Don’t hop to the park with early entry (Extra Magic Hours). The idea is to avoid crowds, not join them.

Limit your hopping to two parks per day. Hopping to a third park in one day would result in more time spent commuting than saved by avoiding crowds.

A Texas mom who park-hopped during the busy season learned a lesson:

We made the mistake of doing a morning at the Magic Kingdom and an afternoon at the Studios. Worst idea ever. By the time we got to the Studios, all the Fastpasses were gone for Toy Story Mania!, the Tower of Terror, and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. And all three rides had at least 90-minute waits.

Nighttime Version of Extra Magic Hours

The Evening Extra Magic Hours program lets Disney resort guests enjoy a different theme park on specified nights for about 2 hours after it closes to the general public. Guests pay no additional charge to participate but must show their resort IDs at each ride or attraction they wish to experience. You can also show up at the turnstiles at any point after evening Extra Magic Hours have started. Note that if you’ve been in another park that day, you’ll need the Park Hopper feature on your admission ticket to enter. Evening Extra Magic Hours are offered at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but not at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

During busier times of year, families seem to take more advantage of evening Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom and the Studios than at Epcot. Evening Extra Magic Hour crowds can be every bit as large as those throughout the day during busier times of the year, even when the evening EMH session extends into the wee hours of the morning. A mom from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, doesn’t mince words:

I say steer clear of a park that is open late. There are only a few attractions open and tons of people trying to get on them.

More attractions operate during the extended evening period than during the early-entry hour in the morning. Certain fast-food and full-service restaurants remain open as well. The program is presumably in response to perks extended to Universal Orlando hotel guests that allow them to go to the front of the line at any Universal attraction. Disney has thus far maintained a level playing field, rejecting programs that extend line-breaking privileges to resort guests.

SUMMER AND HOLIDAYS

While we might argue with the reader’s conclusion, we agree that avoiding summer and holidays is a wise strategy. That said, we also understand that many folks have no choice concerning the time of year they visit Disney World. Sure, off-season touring is preferable, but, armed with knowledge and some strategy, you can have a great time whenever you visit.

To put things in perspective, early summer (up to about June 15) and late summer (after August 15) aren’t nearly as crowded as the intervening period. And even midsummer crowds pale in comparison to the hordes during holiday periods. If you visit in midsummer or during a holiday, the first thing you need to know is that the theme parks’ guest capacity is not infinite. In fact, once a park reaches capacity, only Disney resort guests arriving via the Disney transportation system are allowed to enter. If you’re not a Disney resort guest, you may find yourself in a situation similar to this Boise, Idaho, dad’s:

This is the worst of it. The Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios were so full they closed the parks. For three days we could not enter those parks, so we were forced to go to Epcot and use up two days of our four-day pass. We decided to pay for another night at our hotel to see if the crowds would let up, but no luck. All we could do was just drive around Orlando and sightsee.

We hasten to point out that this reader would’ve had no difficulty gaining admission to the parks of his choice had he committed to being at the turnstiles 35–60 minutes before official opening time.

Packed-Parks Compensation Plan

The thought of teeming throngs jockeying for position in endless lines under the baking Fourth of July sun is enough to wilt the will and ears of the most ardent Mouseketeer. Disney, however, feeling bad about those long lines and challenging touring conditions on packed holidays, compensates patrons with a no-less-than-incredible array of first-rate live entertainment and events.

Shows, parades, concerts, and pageantry continue throughout the day. In the evening, so much is going on that you have to make tough choices. Concerts, parades, light shows, laser shows, fireworks, and dance productions occur almost continually. No question about it: You can go to Walt Disney World on the Fourth of July (or any crowded extended-hours day), never get on a ride, and still have a good time.

Disney provides colorful decorations for most holidays, plus special parades and live entertainment for Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and Fourth of July, among others. Regarding Christmas, we advise visiting in early December when you can enjoy the decorations and festivities without the crowds. If you must tour during the holidays and New Year’s, skip the Magic Kingdom; consider visiting Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios instead.

If you visit on a nonholiday midsummer day, arrive at the turnstile 30–40 minutes before the stated opening on a non-early-entry day. If you visit during a major holiday period, arrive 1 hour before. Hit your favorite rides early using one of our touring plans, then go back to your hotel for lunch, a swim, and perhaps a nap. If you’re interested in the special parades and shows, return to the park in late afternoon or early evening. Assume that unless you use Fastpass, early morning will be the only time you can experience the attractions without long waits. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute in the evening to leave the park. The exodus at closing is truly mind-boggling.

Epcot is usually the least crowded park during holidays. Expect the others to be mobbed. To save time in the morning, buy your admission in advance. Also, consider bringing your own stroller or wheelchair instead of renting one of Disney’s. If you’re touring Epcot or the Magic Kingdom and plan to spend the day, try exiting the park for lunch at a nearby resort hotel. Above all, bring your sense of humor, and pay attention to your group’s morale.

THE WALT DISNEY WORLD CALENDAR

JANUARY Usually held the second weekend after New Year’s, the Walt Disney World Marathon pulls in more runners and their families every year. In 2012, some 24,000 athletes participated in the event—enough people to affect crowd conditions and pedestrian traffic throughout Disney World.

FEBRUARY Black History Month is celebrated throughout Walt Disney World with displays, artisans, storytellers, and entertainers. There’s no extra charge for the activities, and the celebration’s effect on crowd levels is negligible.

Mardi Gras and Presidents Day both increase attendance in the first half of the month. At the end of February is the Princess Half-Marathon (February 22–24 in 2013), drawing around 15,000 participants. The schedule for the weekend includes a health expo, kid races, and a family 5K in addition to the big race. Like the January races, the Princess increases park attendance and affects vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

MARCH The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs annually from mid-March to mid-May or June. Expert horticulturists showcase exotic floral displays and share gardening tips. The 30 million blooms from some 1,200 species will make your eyes pop, and, best of all, the event doesn’t seem to affect crowd levels at Epcot.

APRIL Disney doesn’t need much to boost attendance, what with Easter and some spring-break vacations happening this week (Easter is on March 31 in 2013).

MAY Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts Star Wars Weekends annually beginning this month, with appearances from that franchise’s actors and technicians. These events draw mainly local sci-fi fans, but some come from all over the country. While the impact on regular Disney World crowds is low, you’ll find long lines if you want to meet any of the celebrity guests. Also this month: the Expedition Everest Challenge, a 5K race at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Impact on crowds is low, but traffic is affected by the runners getting to and from the park.

JUNE Events this month include both Star Wars Weekends and Gay Days. Since 1991, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) people from around the world have converged on and around the World in early June for a week of events centered around the theme parks. Today, Gay Days attracts more than 140,000 GLBT visitors and their families and friends. Universal Studios and Wet ’n Wild also participate. For additional information, visit gaydays.com.

SEPTEMBER Radio personality Tom Joyner hosts an extremely popular party at Walt Disney World. Usually held during Labor Day weekend, the Tom Joyner Family Reunion typically features live musical performances, comedy acts, and family-oriented discussions. For more information, visitblackamericaweb.com.

Night of Joy, a Christian-music festival, is staged at the Magic Kingdom this month, usually the second weekend in September. About 16 nationally known acts perform concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings after the park has closed. For information or to purchase tickets, call  407-W-DISNEY (934-7639) or visit tinyurl.com/night-of-joy. (Prices for the 2013 event were unavailable at press time; 2012 tickets ran $50–$60 per night, or around $100 for both nights.)

Those who say Christmas is the most wonderful time of year have never been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Held in the World Showcase from late September through mid-November, the celebration represents 30 nations and includes demonstrations, wine seminars, tastings, and opportunities to see some of the world’s top chefs. Although many activities are included in Epcot admission, the best workshops and tastings are by reservation only and cost extra. Call  407-WDW-DINE well in advance for more information. We think the culinary demonstrations (around $11–$13) and wine-and-beverage seminars ($10–$12) are some of the best values at the festival. Because most of the food kiosks are set up around World Showcase, it can be difficult to walk through the crowds around some of the popular spots. Wait times at Epcot’s attractions, however, are affected only slightly.

Held two dozen or so nights each year from mid-September through October 31 (and occasionally into November), Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party runs from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Magic Kingdom. The event includes trick-or-treating in costume, parades, live music, storytelling, and a fireworks show. For reservations and details, call  407-W-DISNEY. (Prices for the 2013 event were unavailable at press time.)

Finally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler road race in September. See rundisney.com for small print.

NOVEMBER Moved from its unique early-October date, the Wine and Dine Half of-Marathon weekend revolves round a thirteen.1-mile race that ends with a birthday celebration amid Epcot’s Global Meals & Wine Pageant. The selection of runners and their “cheer squads”—blended with the visitors who descend upon Epcot for the meals pageant on my own—blows up the group ranges like an agitated pufferfish. Once more, vehicular and pedestrian visitors is disturbed by using the working classes all over Disney property.

Christmas and New 12 months’s on the Theme Parks

Don’t predict to peer all of the points of interest in a single day of traveling at any park. Skip the Magic Kingdom, if imaginable, for those who tour the week between Christmas and New 12 months’s. Epcot, then again, is at its easiest all through the vacations. Visiting within the night will reward you with gorgeous shows of vacation decorations and somewhat smaller crowds than throughout the day. Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be a good selection for night visiting. Crowds might be better than customary, however the decorations make up for it. One should-see is theOsborne Domestic Spectacle of Dancing Lights, that includes a striking 5 million Christmas lights.

A Bridgewater, Massachusetts, mother loves Disney World throughout the vacations however warns that it’s no longer the most effective time for everybody:

Having simply accomplished our first vacation go back and forth, I’d by no means suggest a Christmas-week trip for first-time guests. However for any person who’s visited sufficient to navigate the parks and not using a map, the chance to expertise the wonder and pleasure of the vacation season outweighs the massive crowds. It’s important to settle for that get admission to to rides and displays can be restricted and as an alternative be aware of the distinctive choices such because the Osborne lights on the Studios and the parades and fireworks on the Magic Kingdom. Enable your self time to consult with the hotels—the gingerbread home on the Grand Floridian have to be considered to be believed. And arrive early: We have been within the MK by way of 7:10 a.m. on New Yr’s Eve and loved all the parades, presentations, and fireworks, in addition to the entire main rides (aside from Splash Mountain—it was once too chilly).

The Magic Kingdom levels the New 12 months’s Eve fireworks on each December 30 and 31 for many who both need to see fireworks in more than one parks or who don’t need to be caught within the biggest crowds of the 12 months on New Yr’s Eve.

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY This adventure is staged 7 p.m.–middle of the night (after common hours) on a number of evenings in November and December. For dates and costs, name  407-W-DISNEY. (Costs for the 2013 adventure had been unavailable at press time.) Integrated in the associated fee is the use of all points of interest all through celebration hours, vacation-themed stage displays that includes Disney characters, cookies and sizzling chocolate, performances of Mickey’s As soon as Upon a Christmastime Parade, carolers, “a magical snow fall on Major Side road,” white lights on Cinderella Fortress, and fireworks.

A reader from Pineville, Louisiana, tried the Very Merry Christmas Birthday celebration and located the visitor listing too massive for her liking:

Any other factor I cannot do once more is go to the Very Merry Christmas Birthday celebration. We went in early December to steer clear of crowds and have been taken unexpectedly to search out wall-to-wall folks. They supplied some nice presentations, however shall we no longer get to them. The parade at 9 p.m. and the fireworks at 10 p.m., then preventing our manner again to the automobile parking space, used to be all lets muster.

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