Extra Magic Hours at Disney World
Thinking points to help You decide when Extra Magic hours are Right for you
Extra Magic Hours are an exclusive benefit for the guests of the official Walt Disney World Resort hotels and select Disney World 'Good Neighbor' hotels, granting them access to a Disney theme park that is closed to the general public. Depending on the season, there may be one or two extra Magic Hour parks on any given day. The Disney theme parks typically open to the public at 9:00AM but, during a morning Extra Magic Hour, Disney hotel guests can enter one hour earlier – typically at 8:00AM. Evening Extra Magic Hours let Disney hotel guests stay in a park two hours past the regular closing time. Disney World park hours and Extra Magic Hours are released six months in advance – though they are subject to revision. At first glance, hitting the most Extra Magic Hours possible may seem like a great idea but there are some things you’ll want to think through first.
Extremely Important: If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you really need to know the Extra Magic Hours schedule so that you can avoid them and the crowds that go with them. You sure don’t want to get to the park just in time to get in long lines behind people who have already been there for an hour.
Thinking Point #1 – Crowds
Disney has over 30,000 hotel rooms and no one goes to Disney World alone and there are 10 'Good Neighbor' hotels with Extra Magic Hour benefits; this means that the Extra Magic Hour park will very often be the most crowded park of the day. That may not be a big deal at non-peak times but it is a very big deal during holidays and other high crowd times like Spring Break or the height of summer travel. If you’re going at during the busy season, you can probably enjoy more attractions in less time by going to a less crowded park. Exception: If you have Disney Park Hopper Tickets, you can enjoy a less crowded park during regular hours and then hop over to the Evening Extra Magic Hours park and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Thinking Point #2 – Getting Up Early on Vacation
If the Morning Extra Magic Hour starts at 8:00AM (earlier at Christmas), you’ll need to leave your resort no later than 7:30AM to take advantage of it. Will your family want to get up at 6:30AM on vacation, especially if they were in a theme park late the night before? Sleeping through the Extra Magic Hour and then arriving in time to get in lines that have been forming for an hour or more is not to your advantage at all – you would definitely be better off going to a less crowded park in this situation. If you’re a family of early risers, this won’t be an issue and the morning Extra Magic Hour may be perfect for you, giving you a chance to enjoy the parks when you’re at your peak and allowing you to take a mid-day break to swim or relax.
Thinking Point #3 – How late is too late?
Epcot closes at 9:00PM almost without exception. The closing time at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios varies a lot – from 7:00PM to Midnight, depending on the season. Disney's Animal Kingdom's hours are quite late following the opening of the the new Pandora - World of Avatar area and it looks like normal closing time will be around 9:00pm once they settle into a regular schedule. The theme parks are at their least crowded the first two hours that they’re open so I really want you to make park opening a priority. If you’re headed to the parks by 8:15AM, will you or your kids really be able to enjoy being up until 10:00PM or later? If you do stay out that late, will it mean getting to the park late tomorrow and missing out on the short lines then? My kids treat Disney World like Marine Boot Camp – they go hard from first thing in the morning until the Disney cast members are pushing us out of the park at the end of the day but not everyone takes this “you can sleep when you’re dead” approach to vacation. When will the fun stop being fun for your family?
Thinking Point #4 – When two hours is really just one hour
Disney says that the Evening Extra Magic Hours are two hours but you really need to look at the park hours on either side of the Extra Magic hour day and sometimes you’ll find that the Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios will close an hour earlier to the general public so you’re really only getting one hour more than you would get a day earlier or later. If you’re only gaining one hour, are you better off going on a less crowded day? One extra hour with less people might be great when it isn’t too late.
Thinking Point #5 –When you have to choose between Extra Magic Hours and "Happily Ever After" fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
Check the Disney calendar because, during the lower seasons, Disney will sometimes eliminate the "Happily Ever After" Fireworks in the Magic Kingdom on days with Extra Magic Hours. The fireworks are pretty special and you may not want to miss them, especially if this is a “once in a lifetime” trip. You may want to hit the Magic Kingdom on a different day, especially if your trip falls at a time when the Extra Magic hours mean fewer regular park hours. This may not be an issue if you have two days allocated for the Magic Kingdom or have park hopper tickets and can catch the parade and Fireworks after visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom, which usually closes earlier.
Thinking Point #6 – Extra Magic Hours when low crowds mean shorter park hours
I know that a lot of the above points may lead you to decide against Extra Magic Hours in certain situations but Extra Magic Hours can be a great thing when crowd levels are really low and Disney reduces park hours. I love evening Extra Magic Hours in this situation.
Thinking Point #8 – Extra Magic Hours when it is crazy-hot outside
Florida can be uncomfortably hot from June into October. If the middle of the day is going to be miserable, you may want to head back to your resort for a rest or go to a water park. In this situation, the Extra Magic Hours can give you the time you need to experience the parks at times where the heat is not so terribly hot but please use a good touring plan to help you manage crowds.
Click here for our Top 10 Tips for Summer Trip to Disney World
Thinking Point #9 – When You Have Park Hopper Ticket
The Disney World Basic Ticket allows guests to visit one theme park per day but Disney also offers an upgrade called the Park Hopper Option. This option costs extra, is good for the length of your ticket and allows you two move between the Disney Theme Parks at your convenience. Guests with Basic Tickets really need to be careful when planning around Extra Magic Hours because, once you’ve entered a park, you’re committed to that park for the day. You can leave and re-enter the same park but you can’t switch to a different park. The Park Hopper option costs more but it does give you some flexibility – for example, you can go to Disney's Animal Kingdom park for a morning Extra Magic Hour and enjoy that park while crowds are low, then head over to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy some attractions and the evening entertainment.
Thinking Point #10 – Night Owls & Vampires
I’ve already mentioned that the crowds are lowest the first few hours the park is open so it really makes sense to get there at least 20 minutes before they open the gates. On the other hand, some people like stay out late and sleep in on vacation. If this sounds like you, definitely use TouringPlan.com’s “late start” touring plans to manage crowds coupled with evening Extra Magic Hours and go for it. You will want to make good use of FASTPASS+ for the attractions that get crazy lines or hit them at the very end of the evening.
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