July 22, 2024

Disney World Extends Regular Park Hours & Adds Fantasmic in April 2023

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Walt Disney World has extended hours on the calendar for April 2023 at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom during the peak spring break season. This post covers the changes plus zig when they

Walt Disney World has extended hours on the calendar for April 2023 at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom during the peak spring break season. This post covers the changes plus zig when they zag strategy for seeing Fantasmic and more.

We’ll start with the latest release of new operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours, and the current calendar now runs through the end of May 2023. Here are the hours for the newly-added dates during Memorial Day weekend:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 10 pm
  • EPCOT: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 8:30 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Typhoon Lagoon: 10 am to 5 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

As a reminder, Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate or placeholder hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. With that said, these standard hours now often end up also being the final ones during low to moderately busy dates. To that point, expect these to be the actual hours for much of May 2023–perhaps with the exception of Memorial Day weekend.

In addition to these newly added hours, Walt Disney World has also extended park hours throughout April 2023. For the most part, these are the same extensions that’ve been occurring for the last year or so. As discussed in our Spring Break 2023 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World, many of the extensions are occurring during the busiest stretch of the year.

As always, leveraging Early Entry and nighttime hours or Genie+ and Lightning Lanes will make beating the crowds relatively easy–even during a busier month like April. We spent extensive time in the parks last week during Orange County’s spring break, and were still able to accomplish a lot by utilizing savvy strategy. The same will undoubtedly hold true for the remainder of this month and April 2023.

Anyway, on with the extensions…

Going forward, Magic Kingdom will stay open for one extra hour–until 11:00 pm–through at least April 29, 2023.

This extension has been par for the course during spring break and other periods of heavy crowds. There are only two exceptions to this: March 20 and March 27. Both of those are After Hours at Magic Kingdom event dates, and the park is open from 8 am until 10 pm on those two dates. Unlike during MNSSHP and MVMCP, we do not recommend targeting those earlier closings.

It’s not enough to move the needle on attendance levels, and wait times do not drop at the end of the night as a result of the special event mix-in. We have had great success with Magic Kingdom actual wait times being way lower than what’s posted during and after the fireworks on 9 am to 11 pm days, and you lose that on the After Hours dates.

Another calendar update for Magic Kingdom is that TRON Lightcycle Run has officially soft opened as of today (March 20, 2023). It will continue operating in soft opening mode through April 2, before officially opening on April 4, 2023. (It will not operate on April 3.)

See our How to Ride TRON Lightcycle Run & Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for everything you need to know for successfully scoring boarding groups or buying Individual Lightning Lane access. (Also note that the roller coaster could have limited hours during the soft opening window.)

Animal Kingdom has had some–but not all–of its hours extended. As noted above, the normal hours for Animal Kingdom are 9 am to 7 pm. Extensions are as follows:

  • April 1-16, 21-23, 28-29: 8 am to 8 pm
  • April 17-20, 24-27: 8 am to 7 pm

Basically, extensions the first half of the month and then on Fridays through Sundays thereafter. Pretty consistent with what we’ve been seeing for Animal Kingdom the last several months.

Hours have also been extended at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and are now 8:30 am until 9:30 pm through April 29, 2023. (For some reason, DHS is listed as opening at 9 am on April 13 and 16. It’s difficult to tell whether that’s when the park will actually open, or if a mistake was made when posting the calendar. UPDATE: It’s likely due to the runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend.)

Although it’s the most frustrating park during the middle of the day, DHS remains doable with Early Entry (see our strategy for that) and/or by staying late. Focus on characters, stage shows, and dining from around 10 am until 5 pm and you should be in good shape.

Finally, another significant programming note is that Walt Disney World has added second showtimes of Fantasmic between now and April 22, 2023. Through that date, Fantasmic is scheduled for 8:30 pm and 10 pm. After that date, Fantasmic will be shown once nightly, at 9 pm.

Historically, it’s not uncommon for one of the nighttime spectaculars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to occur at park closing or 30 minutes after. This allows Disney to effectively extend the closing time by an hour or more (given the duration of Fantasmic and longer time it takes to clear the park after it ends) but without running rides during that time.

It’s a savvy strategy and one that also allows Walt Disney World to offer more ADRs, which is revenue-generating upside that’s also good for guests for want to eat late and couldn’t find reservations earlier.

We’ve done Fantasmic multiple times during Spring Break 2023, and managed to see the second show from spectacular seats without ever arriving more than 5 minutes in advance of showtime. Note that this was the case even on evenings when the first performance was quite busy and seats filled up 30 minutes before showtime (announcements played that only limited views were available).

Conversely, the 10 pm performances of Fantasmic on those exact same evenings had multiple entire sections that went unfilled. I was able to snag the third row of a great section at (literally) 9:58 pm on night on a 10/10 crowd level day. Expect similar success with these second showtimes, even during the peak week of Easter.

If you’re trying to accomplish as much as possible, we’d recommend doing attractions until the absolute last minute, and then racing to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater right before the clock strikes 10 pm. We’ve been able to do Slinky Dog Dash and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance via standby with actual wait times of under 25 minutes with this approach.

This is actually what we’ve been doing since the second showtime of Fantasmic moved to 30 minutes after park closing. The only downside is that it’s risky, especially if you’re lining up for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 9 pm or later–or doing anything right before park closing. We’ve missed the start of Fantasmic by cutting it too close. No big deal to us, as we’ve seen the new version of the show multiple times already. Obviously, your circumstances probably differ.

Another option is the Fantasmic Dining Package. This is pretty much the opposite of the above recommendation, as you’re paying a premium for the safety net or security of a guaranteed (good) seat. Although we’re risk-takers, that’s not going to be the ideal strategy for first-timers or infrequent visitors. For what it’s worth, we highly recommend booking the cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package and guaranteeing yourself a great seat that way!

Finally, you can consult our Viewing Guide for Fantasmic at Walt Disney World for all of our tips to get the best seats without paying extra for the package. That also covers which sections are the best for those who are very particular about having the optimal view.

Ultimately, Walt Disney World extending park hours and adding second showtimes of Fantasmic for Spring Break 2023 is expected but still great news, with no real downside. This makes strategizing for Disney’s Hollywood Studios easier, and should be a relief for those of you who don’t want to purchase Fantasmic Dining Packages.

While that’s a nice safety net or insurance policy, it’s mostly unnecessary on normal nights when there are two performances of Fantasmic. Beyond that, this makes it easier to accomplish headliners in the evening hours, making it less ‘essential’ to purchase the Genie+ service at DHS.

As always, the earlier opening times at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom make it easier to beat crowds at those parks. There’s a huge advantage to early risers, and savvy strategy or knowledge of how to leverage Genie+ and Lightning Lanes can be a game changer.

To that end, check out our Genie+ v. Savvy Strategy at Walt Disney World, which is the result of extensive ‘testing’ to determine the best and worst ways to beat the crowds. Magic Kingdom remains the one park where we’d really recommend purchasing the Genie+ service, as it’s difficult to beat the lines at every attraction without it (and it offers a lot more value/utility at Magic Kingdom than any other park).

Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see how bad crowds end up being in April 2023, and what happens after the spring break season ends in the final third of the month. While the park opening times are fine (save for Magic Kingdom on 9 am days), our hope is that Walt Disney World gets back to later closing times for the summer.

As for next month, we’re pleased to finally have the extensions. Even though these are essentially a continuation of the status quo, they’re good to see. All in all, we’re optimistic about visiting Walt Disney World over the course of the next few months. Even though attendance continues to be elevated, there are still plenty of options for beating the crowds at all 4 parks. It just requires savvy strategy (or buying Genie+, in the case of Magic Kingdom).

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of Walt Disney World’s operating hours for the rest of this month through late April 2023? Think this schedule is reasonable? Do you think Magic Kingdom should be open earlier and/or later? What has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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