June 15, 2024

Disney World Extends Hours for Mardi Gras & Mid-Winter Break 2024

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Walt Disney World has added more hours to the calendar through after the end of peak Spring Break season in mid-April 2024, while also extending hours at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World has added more hours to the calendar through after the end of peak Spring Break season in mid-April 2024, while also extending hours at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom through Mardi Gras and Winter Break. This covers the additions 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 April 15, 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 almost continue throughout 2024. It’s absolutely nothing to get alarmed about and does not mean that, for example, Magic Kingdom will only be open until 9 pm on Easter Sunday. There’s a 99% chance that’ll be extended, which almost begs the question: why not post the hours until they’re final?!

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

Magic Kingdom

  • February 8-10, 2024: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 11, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 12-14, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 15, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 16, 2024: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 17-18, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 19, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 20-21, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 22, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 23-24, 2024: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)

This is quite the quirky schedule change, and some of the choices to extend (or not) are interesting. In particular, every Monday–the busiest day of the week at Magic Kingdom–is only 9am to 10pm. This is driven by After Hours events on some dates, but not all. (So perhaps it’s for the sake of consistency?) We would’ve recommended avoiding that before, but it’s doubly true now due to the more limited extensions than other days.

It’s not really a huge surprise, but weekends receive the biggest extensions. As you might recall, Saturdays and Sundays were the slowest days of the week last year. This is starting to change, but we’d still be inclined to visit on Friday or Saturday over the days with 9am to 10pm hours. Just be mindful of park opening times, as some of those 11pm closings have 8am openings whereas others (usually Sunday) are 9am.

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. (Winter is not ‘Party Season’, but the exact same idea applies on those days!)

Speaking of it 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 1-2 hours earlier 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 is hinted at above with those Monday park hours non-extensions, but that’s as much due to day of week dynamics as it is the slightly earlier closing. (I’m honestly a bit surprised they don’t do 8am openings on Mondays, which would make those days mildly more attractive.)

This isn’t really a ‘hard’ rule, 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, it’s good to see the 11 p.m. closings on certain nights during Mardi Gras and Mid-Winter Break, otherwise known as Presidents’ Day vacation (or Ski Week to a seemingly small number of school districts on the West Coast).

Honestly, I was hoping for more than this. We’re expecting that stretch to be particularly busy (it’s on our 10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025)–enough to justify more 11pm and maybe a handful of midnight closures. Maybe it won’t be as bad as we’re anticipating, though.

For the last couple of years, the week of Presidents’ Day has ranked as one of the worst 5 weeks as measured by average wait times. However, that break has also coincided with Mardi Gras, making it more likely that schools would have winter breaks. On top of that, there was the runDisney Princess Half Marathon bookending the holiday.

This year, Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day are one week apart, effectively diluting the crowds. It’s thus possible that both weeks will be busy…but not bonkers. Regardless, Walt Disney World is a popular destination for families with winter breaks who opt for warm weather and sunshine over ski slopes. I guess we shall see!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • February 9-10, 2024: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 12, 2024: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • February 15-24, 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.

It definitely should be possible, as Walt Disney World moved forward the opening time on all but a few dates. At least, possible so long as you don’t gloss over them on the calendar–it’s easy to see all of the 8:30am openings and mistakenly think it applies to all dates in the next few weeks.

Animal Kingdom

  • February 9-10, 2024: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 11-12, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 13-15, 2024: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 16-20, 2024: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 21-22, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • February 23-24, 2024: 8am to 8pm (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 better option during Mardi Gras and Mid-Winter Break than during the slowest stretches of the year, but those 8pm closings still should allow for you to accomplish a lot in the final few hours of the day. But, if your plan is to arrive late and leave early, Genie+ can be a good option. After experiencing 8/10 and above crowds there (and seeing the Lightning Lane actually be valuable for stage shows!), we aren’t quite so assertive about Genie+ being categorically “bad” at DAK. It really depends.

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.

We’re huge fans of leveraging Park Hopping and splitting most days into two half days. If your family is full of early risers and staying on-site, I’d be taking advantage of those 7:30am Early Entry times (and that includes DHS, unofficially). 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–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 for February 2024, which was to be expected given all of the school breaks on the horizon. The extensions at Animal Kingdom are really good–and even that 30 extra minutes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is great. We continue to be puzzled by the lack of extensions at EPCOT, especially after the crowds we’ve experienced this year for Festival of the Arts, but that’s become par for the course, too.

Magic Kingdom’s extended hours are hit or miss. So long as you avoid Mondays and other mid-week days that are only 9am until 10pm, you should be in pretty good shape. Bonus points for doing those 7:30am Early Entry dates, which should give you a nice competitive advantage to knock out Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight before bouncing to Adventureland and Frontierland.

Looking forward, we expect to see a lot more park hours extensions for the last week of February and March 2024. Spring Break starts and peaks earlier this year, but even before that, there should be extensions earlier in the month. Starting around the middle of next month, 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 for Mardi Gras and Mid-Winter Break? 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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