June 15, 2024

Disney World Extends Hours in Winter 2024

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Walt Disney World has added more hours to the calendar through Spring 2024, while also extending hours at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom for the rest of January and February. This post

Walt Disney World has added more hours to the calendar through Spring 2024, while also extending hours at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom for the rest of January and February. This post covers the changes plus zig when they zag strategy for the parks and everything else you should know.

We’ll start with the latest release of new operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours, and the current calendar now runs through March 26, 2024. Here are the hours for most of the newly-added dates:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm
  • EPCOT: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
  • Blizzard Beach: 10 am to 5 pm

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. This has been common practice for years, and will continue for the remainder of this year and, presumably, in 2024.

In addition to these newly added hours, Walt Disney World has also extended park hours throughout January and February 2024. Let’s dig into what’s been extended…

Magic Kingdom

  • January 19-21, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • January 22-25, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • January 26-27, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • January 28, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • January 29, 2024: 8am to 4:30pm (previously 9am to 4:30pm)
  • January 30-31, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 1, 2024: 8am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 2-3, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)

We want to draw your attention specifically to January 29, 2024 at Magic Kingdom, which is why it’s bolded. On this day, the park closes at 4:30 p.m., which is 4-5 hours earlier than it’ll close on adjacent dates. This is good to know so you don’t accidentally visit Magic Kingdom on a day that’s closing before sunset and won’t feature fireworks.

Instead, we’d recommend that you do Magic Kingdom on purpose on January 29, 2024. As a result of that 4:30 p.m. closing (for a Cast Member service milestone celebration–a great reason for the early closing!), the vast majority of guests will avoid Magic Kingdom on that day. After all–why pay the same amount for 5-6 fewer hours, no fireworks, and no nighttime in the park?!

This is exactly why we highly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom on that day, especially if you have Park Hopper tickets or the opportunity to return on another full operating day to see the fireworks. January 29, 2024 will be one of the 5 least busy days of the entire year at Magic Kingdom, and you absolutely will not need Genie+ on that day.

Magic Kingdom hosts these CM service days every single winter, and the crowds are consistently and predictably low. It’s one of the least busy days of the entire year, even slower than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party days! Remember: zig when they zag.

The big ‘bonus’ now is that Magic Kingdom will open at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., which is hugely advantageous for Early Entry. See our 7:30 am Early Entry at Magic Kingdom ‘Party Season’ Strategy. (January is not ‘Party Season’, but the exact same idea applies on that day!)

Speaking of January not being Party Season, the After Hours at Magic Kingdom event doesn’t have much of an impact on crowds. This is a question that we get asked a lot, with some planners expecting something similar to MNSSHP or MVMCP.

The difference here is that Magic Kingdom (or whichever park is hosting After Hours) doesn’t typically close early for the hard ticket event. It is, as the name suggests, after hours. There are times when whichever park closes an hour early on After Hours nights relative to adjacent dates (due to park hours extensions), but that’s not typically enough to move the needle on crowds. Most people won’t change their plans for a single hour–but many will for 3+ hours and no fireworks!

If anything, we try to avoid the park during daytime hours on After Hours nights. This isn’t really a ‘hard’ rule and it’s not backed up by much in the way of wait times data. But our anecdotal experience is that mix-in for After Hours tends to spike crowds at the end of the night when they’d otherwise be falling. Even though I can’t prove this happens (wait time data is unreliable at the end of the night), I’m confident enough that it does that we try to avoid days of After Hours if we aren’t attending the event. Your mileage may vary.

Beyond that, I’m honestly mildly surprised by the 11 p.m. closings on certain nights this month and in early February 2024. This is firmly the winter off-season (to the extent that exists) and crowds shouldn’t be that bad. Don’t get me wrong–I love longer hours at Magic Kingdom!

I’m just surprised, especially since there were several moderate to high crowds dates during the holiday season that had 10 p.m. closings. I’d be shocked if a single date with an 11 p.m. closing in mid to late January or early February 2024 has higher crowds or worse wait times than the busier dates last month.

My guess is that Walt Disney World is extrapolating from hotel occupancy numbers, which are undoubtedly high for several of those dates. We’re entering the heart of youth sports ‘season’ at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, with the National Dance Team Championship and a variety of other big events on the horizon.

Those can impact crowds in the parks, but they typically have a more outsized impact on the resorts. I guess we shall see, though. (For the late January dates, the 4:30 p.m. closing on 1/29 will displace crowds fairly significantly and have a big impact on 1/30-31, so that explains the longer hours those dates. I’m still mildly surprised at the 11 p.m. closings, though.)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • January 29, 2024: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 2-3, 2024: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)

All of the other park hours extensions are much less interesting than those at Magic Kingdom.

Early Entry will once again officially start at 8 am on the above dates that Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 8:30 a.m. Unofficially, Early Entry should begin even earlier. This is a really big deal. As we’ve mentioned countless times, the earlier that Early Entry starts, the better. There’s less “competition” and you can get way more done.

In fact, that’s how I Did Every Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Before 11am Via Standby Lines. Don’t count on replicating these results, but the strategy is sound. We’d thus highly recommend doing DHS on one of these dates if at all possible.

Animal Kingdom

  • January 21-22, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • January 26-28, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • January 29-31, 2024: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
  • February 1-3, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 4-24, 2024: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)

For the same reason as above, the 8am opening time is clutch at Animal Kingdom. This means Early Entry at 7:30am, which is pretty sparsely attended. See Animal Kingdom Park Opening & Early Entry Ride Strategy (or, “How I Did Every Ride at DAK Before 10:30am.”)

At the opposite end of the day, Animal Kingdom continues to officially close after nightfall for all of these days! Between the later closing and earlier sunset, you can get a couple hours in DAK after dark for the first time in a while. We highly recommend staying for evenings in DAK to enjoy the Tree of Life Awakenings, plus Pandora and the rest of the park after dark.

Our Animal Kingdom Afternoon Arrival Strategy is once again the ideal approach for this park. Genie+ is a waste of money at Animal Kingdom for at least the next month. Please don’t be fooled by the “bargain” pricing on paid FastPass at Animal Kingdom. Remember, something is only a deal if you actually need it–otherwise, you’re just a hoarder. (Well, you can’t really hoard Lightning Lanes in the same sense…but you get the idea!)

As noted above, mid-January to mid-February is one of the last stretches of off-season at Walt Disney World. It’s definitely not as uncrowded as it once was due to a variety of factors–the aforementioned events at ESPN Wide World of Sports, higher population in Central Florida (and better weather getting locals to the parks), more snowbirds visiting Walt Disney World, etc.

Nevertheless, the next couple of months are generally good times to visit. There are some huge asterisks to this–dates in the next few months make both ‘sides’ of our list of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025.

As always, the earlier opening times at Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Magic 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 gamechanger.

Now that Park Hopping is back to normal, we’re huge fans of leveraging it and splitting most days into two half days. With 9 a.m. openings, I wouldn’t be doing any mornings at EPCOT, and would instead start the day doing Early Entry at the park that opens earliest and bounce around to leverage park hours and crowd dynamics.

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. You can also do pretty well in the evenings at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios–and that’s somehow still true even now that Fantasmic is back. EPCOT is more of a wildcard now–the dust still hasn’t settled on Luminous or the other new stuff there (and now it’s Festival of the Arts).

Ultimately, a decent number of park hours extensions from mid-January until early February, which is good news because those dates are often the ones that keep the boilerplate hours. That could be a sign that this winter “off-season” is going to be anything but, and Walt Disney World is forecasting above-average crowds.

I’m personally skeptical of that, but they do have internal data and reasons for making these changes. (Side note: they’re internal data is imperfect and they get crowd forecasts wrong all the time, most recently during the holiday season. So it’s not as if park hours are conclusive of lower or higher crowds!)

Looking forward, we expect to see a lot more park hours extensions for the second half of February and March 2024. Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, and Spring Break all will spike crowds much more significantly than anything happening for the next month or so. Here’s hoping Magic Kingdom gets some midnight closures, and the other three parks have more opening times before 9 a.m. Those two moves alone would be huge in helping reduce crowding.

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 in Winter 2024? Is this schedule is reasonable, or are more extensions needed to help absorb crowds? Do you think Magic Kingdom should be open from 8am until midnight on more days? What about earlier opening times at the other parks? 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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