Best Time of Year to Visit
So when are the peak seasons when prices go highest? Put simply: when American kids are out of school. That means mid-spring, summer until late August, and the holidays. Hotel rates rise then, too. If you want to save cash, early January, early May, late August, all of September, and the first half of December are the best you can do. The flipside of low season is that the theme parks trim services and run fewer ride cars when it’s quieter. January is a particularly tough month for missing out on rides due to rehabs. And especially in the winter months, you may find it too chilly to enjoy the rides that get you wet, which is a shame since Orlando has some of the best water rides in the world.
Summer is when the masses throng to the parks. It's also very humid and hot, Hot, HOT. If you can skip a summer visit, you also won't have to worry much about the possibility of a hurricane (admittedly rare, but not unheard of) or an electrical storm (an almost daily occurrence).
Although Covid-19 taught the parks a lot about managing consistent daily attendance levels, that doesn’t mean prices remain flat all year. The main consideration when it comes to selecting dates is balancing good weather with hotel and car prices. None of the theme parks close on public holidays—in fact, they do better business then. In late December, Disney parks sometimes hit capacity and seal gates. But in September and the week after Thanksgiving, you can sometimes do nearly everything in a day. Light crowds do not automatically mean shorter waits, because on quieter days, rides run at lower capacity.
June to September is the heaviest season for excruciating sun, suffocating humidity, and brief torrential rain. Every mid-afternoon, another heavy storm rolls in and shuts rides temporarily—pretty much everything outdoors or on water will temporarily shut down if lightning has been detected within range within the previous 30 minutes. (Central Florida suffers more lightning strikes than any other American locale.) Those deluges usually roll out within an hour but scare away a significant percentage of guests, so it almost always pays to wait an hour or 90 minutes for the rain to clear out. During that season, bring along a cheap poncho from home.
Best Days to Visit
The busiest days at all parks are generally Saturday and Sunday. Seven-day guests are often traveling on these days, and weekends are when locals come to play. Beyond that: Tuesday and Thursday see an uptick in the Magic Kingdom; Tuesday and Friday (and evenings) at Epcot; and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday can be a zoo (forgive the pun) at the Animal Kingdom. Because of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is always busy. No matter where you are, crowds tend to ease slightly later in the day.The big attractions at Animal Kingdom are, obviously, the animals, and the best time to see them is early in the day or late in the afternoon or evening, when things are cooler. You'll also get a decent midday glimpse of some of them during the cooler months.
If the forecast for the day calls for extended rain, you should save Animal Kingdom for another time because many of the primo attractions are outdoors.
It's not uncommon for the skies to open up on Orlando, even when the day begins with the sun ablaze. Florida is well known for its afternoon downpours, so don't be too concerned -- storms don't usually last too long. Most people simply run for temporary cover, and then resume their activities when the rain slows to a drizzle or stops altogether. It is wise, however, to bring along some type of rain gear, as storms can spring up rather quickly. A small fold-up umbrella can protect you until you can get to shelter. If you forget your gear, rain ponchos can be purchased throughout the parks for about $6 for a child-size poncho, or $8 for an adult size. The child-size poncho also happens to cover the average stroller quite well, protecting camera equipment and souvenirs -- not to mention the child sitting inside it.
Don't let a rainy afternoon spoil your fun. Crowds are dramatically thinner on these days, and there are plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy, particularly at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios Florida, where many of the attractions are actually indoors. The flip side, of course, is that many of the outdoor rides and attractions at Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld are temporarily closed during downpours and lightning storms.
Hours of operation vary throughout the year and are often influenced by special events, so it's a good idea to call to check opening/closing times.
The Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios are generally open from 9am to 7 or 8pm, with hours often extended to 9pm and sometimes as late as midnight -- even 1am during major holidays and summer. Animal Kingdom is usually open from 9am to 5 or 6pm but sometimes closes as late as 8pm.
Epcot is generally open from 9am or 10am to 9pm or 10pm.
Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are open from 10am to 5pm most of the year (with slightly extended hours during summer and some holidays). One at a time will be closed on a rotating basis during part of the winter for maintenance; be sure to check ahead if they're on your to-do list.
Shorter Days, Fewer Shows -- If you haven't been to Disney in several years, you may notice that, in many cases, the parks close earlier than in previous years, and some areas open later. Additionally, select shows and parades are offered less often or only on certain days. In order to avoid being disappointed, call tel. 407/824-4321 or go to www.disneyworld.com for up-to-the-minute information.
Extra Time -- Disney resort guests (as well as those staying at the WDW Swan, the WDW Dolphin, and the Hilton at the Walt Disney World Resort) are permitted 30 minutes of extra playtime in the parks first thing in the morning. It's not much time, but under the program, a select number of attractions, shops, and restaurants at one of the four major Disney parks will be available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.