People often ask when is the best time to visit Walt Disney World. There is no real answer to that question, because there really isn’t one specific “best time” of year to head to Central Florida. You need to figure out what it is that you want for your vacation, and what you are willing to sacrifice. Smaller crowds might be important to one person, while the kids not missing school could be important to someone else. I’ve tried to compile here a list of questions and answers that will help you to decide what time of year is best for you and your situation.
10. When can we see the Christmas lights and other decorations?
Signs of Christmas are usually evident just a few days after Halloween. The decorations from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party need to be removed at the Magic Kingdom and they’ll be replaced with decorations for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which usually starts in early to mid-November. The holiday activities at Epcot start a little bit later, usually the day after Thanksgiving. Epcot is also the first to suspend the holiday events, which will run until December 30. The other parks will continue with the holiday decorations a few days into the New Year. The decorations in the deluxe hotels start to appear by the middle of November and will remain up until January 1.
9. Is it really the Sunshine State? Does it never rain?
Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State but that does not mean that it won’t rain. If you’re planning your vacation for the summer plan to bring umbrellas or ponchos. You can expect brief, but heavy downpours most days from May until October. They usually pass as quickly as they moved in. That is not meant to imply that there is no rain November through April, but there is not nearly as much. Don’t let the daily storms keep you away. Just be aware that they will happen and have your camera ready for the rainbow that might appear once the storm is over.
8. I want to get some sleep but not waste my tickets. When do the parks have shorter hours?
One of the nice things about visiting during a non-peak time of year is that a few must-experience things like Wishes and Fantasmic! are earlier in the evening. When the hours are short it is because the crowds are expected to be smaller. You can still ride your favorite rides and catch all the shows, including those in the evening, and then get a good night’s sleep. Park hours vary, but you will usually find that the parks close earlier in the beginning of January through the middle of February, late April through mid-June, after Labor Day in September through the week before Thanksgiving in November, and the first couple of weeks of December. Remember that the parks will be open later on holidays, and that those days are enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Epcot’s hours usually stay the same all year long, except during the holiday season.
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7. I like to party. What times of year have extended hours?
If you like to stay up late you should visit Walt Disney World in the second half of June, July, or most of August. The Magic Kingdom will sometimes be open until 1:00am on peak days. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will often be open later during the summer months as well. The hours are also extended for Thanksgiving weekend and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The parks will be busy, but events like Fantasmic! will have more than one showing to accommodate more guests.
6. When is the least crowded time to visit if we don’t want to take the kids out of school?
Many parents will allow their children to miss school for a few days for a Disney vacation. If you are not one of those parents but don’t want to hit the parks during the busiest times of year, look at your school calendar. If your school system gets out early, plan to visit the first or second week of June. If your school starts later in the year, plan your trip for the last week of August, when many schools will already be back in session.
5. Are there ever discounts offered at the resort hotels?
When the crowds are lighter the rooms still need to be filled, so Disney will offer discounts on rooms. The best way to see how much a room will cost during a particular time of year is to check the Seasonal Pricing option on the Disney website for the hotel that you might be interested in. There doesn’t always seem to be a pattern for why a room will cost a low rate one night and a lot more the next. You will also want to get on Disney’s email list, they will sometimes send out special offers. Occasionally Disney will also offer free dining when you stay at a Disney resort, but don’t count on it.
4. When are the special events?
Visiting during a special event can make a vacation to Walt Disney World even more magical. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival begins each year towards the beginning of March and runs through mid-May. Late September-early November the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival takes place. There are also some special events at the Magic Kingdom that require a separate ticket. Night of Joy is held for two nights in early September. It features some of the hottest names in contemporary Christian music. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party runs on select nights mid-September until the beginning of November. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starts in mid-November and runs until a few days before Christmas. It is also held only on select dates.
3. Should I come during my Spring Break?
Spring Break will be busy. The crowds will be heavy and the lines will be long. The weather in Central Florida can be crazy. It could be hot for Spring Break but then again the weather might be perfect. Spring Break is before the rainy season and even if the days are hot the evenings are usually comfortable. If you don’t mind the crowds Spring Break can be a perfect time to visit. Just make sure that you check the forecast before you leave home so that you will be prepared.
2. What months have the best weather?
Unless you like hot and humid, the winter months offer the best weather in Florida. According to the Weather Channel, the average high temperatures in Orlando for November, December, January, February, and March are all under 80 degrees. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be hotter days and it certainly does not mean that it won’t get cold! Florida does go below freezing and there are even wind chills in the teens from time to time. Of course that is better than most of the country during the winter, but don’t think that you only have to pack T-shirts, shorts, and flip flops in the middle of January.
1. When are the crowds the lightest?
A good rule of thumb to follow about crowds is that you can expect lighter crowds when schools are in session. Holidays and three day weekends will be busy. Summers are packed, even with the heat and the humidity. If you’re looking for lighter crowds go when kids are in school. Most of January through mid-February is a good time to go. Skip the next few weeks because of Spring Breaks (remember that different school systems and colleges have them at different times). The week after Easter will still be busy, but then the crowds will calm down some until right before Memorial Day. Forget the summer if you’re looking for fewer people and consider visiting after Labor Day in September instead. The crowds will be fairly light again until right before Thanksgiving. The first couple of weeks of December still have light crowds, but they’ve picked up a little in recent years because of the Christmas decorations. If you want light crowds stay away from Walt Disney World from around December 20 until January 2. Things should calm down again after that.