June 18, 2024

Disney World Extends Easter & Spring Hours

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Walt Disney World has extended hours at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom for the peak of Spring Break season through Easter week in late March 2024. This covers the additions plus zig when

Walt Disney World has extended hours at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom for the peak of Spring Break season through Easter week in late March 2024. 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 May 18, 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

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 the second half March 2024. Note that these extensions have occurred in two waves, with the most recent additions on March 8, 2024. Let’s dig into what’s been extended…

Magic Kingdom

  • March 10-16, 2024: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 17, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 18-22, 2024: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 23, 2024: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 24-30, 2023: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)

For the most part, we like what we see here. What’s most interesting about this from my perspective is that Walt Disney World is treating the first full week as the busier than the second. Magic Kingdom is opening at 8am and closing at 11pm every single day between now and March 16, 2024. That makes sense, as Spring Break will be busy.

What makes less sense is reverting to a 9am to 10pm schedule–two fewer hours–the following week. Both Seminole and Orange County have March 18-22 off for Spring Break, not to mention a ton of other counties throughout the South. By contrast, fewer big districts are on recess for the previous week (the big local ones being Osceola and Polk).

This is why our recent Spring Break 2024 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World identified March 15 as the date that crowds would start to get really bad, and pretty much not let up until after Easter. That’s still our expectation, even after seeing these park hours that suggest a forecast of moderate crowd levels in Magic Kingdom (hence the modest 9am to 10pm hours).

We could be wrong, but it’s also worth looking back to last year’s holiday season. In a nutshell, Walt Disney World got very aggressive with extensions around Veterans Day, crowds did not materialize as expected, so they got more conservative with extensions closer to Christmas…even as crowds got much worse. I know this because I enjoyed a couple of gloriously uncrowded 8am to midnight days in Magic Kingdom in early to mid-November, only to see hours on 9am to 10pm later in the season on 9/10 crowd days between MVMCP dates.

I’m not saying the same thing will happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if history repeats itself. Another possibility is that Walt Disney World circles back and extends hours for March 18-22. That isn’t entirely unprecedented, but it’s also not normal. Good news for anyone visiting next week, though, as those 8am to 11pm hours are great and an excellent offset to Spring Break crowds.

As a reminder, we highly recommend doing Magic Kingdom on an 8am opening day if your trip straddles both 8am and 9am opening days. Between the extra hour in the morning and another 2 at night, strategy becomes much easier–and that’ll be doubly true if crowds are “only” 7/10 or below.

I know we repeat this ad nauseum, but the strategic significance of Magic Kingdom opening at 8am instead of 9am cannot be overstated. Early Entry starting an hour later is almost useless, whereas it’s incredible at 7:30am. One hour makes a world of difference. See our 7:30 am Early Entry at Magic Kingdom ‘Party Season’ Strategy. (Spring Break is not ‘Party Season’, but the exact same idea applies on those days!)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • March 10-16, 2024: 8:30am to 9:30pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 17-24, 2024: No extensions
  • March 25-26, 2024: 9am to 9:30pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
  • March 27, 2024: No extension 
  • March 25-30, 2024: 9am to 9:30pm (previously 9am to 9pm)

Even more “interesting” park hours extensions–or lack thereof–at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Based on the above, Walt Disney World seems to believe that next week will be the worst week of Spring Break–busier than Easter week, which didn’t receive an earlier opening time.

While I’ll allow for the possibility, however unlikely, that next week will be busier than the following week, there’s almost no way it’ll be worse than Easter. I know a lot of fans are deferential to Disney and think that they have tons of data and are great with it or whatever, but they get this stuff wrong quite frequently. So sure, there’s a chance that they’re right and that our crowd forecast has overlooked major school districts or colleges on break early.

There’s also a strong chance Walt Disney World is whiffing on its own attendance projections or park hours extensions. Wouldn’t be the first time or the last. (I’d add that park tickets–which also reflect attendance forecasts–are higher for the two weeks before Easter than next week. While those prices themselves can have a redistributive quality, that doesn’t apply to Spring Break. The breaks are when they are.)

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The other upside of the 9:30pm closing days is two showings of Fantasmic. Double-bonus: the second showtime is 30 minutes after park closing, meaning that it’s at 9:30pm or 10pm, depending on the evening.

We highly recommend seeing the second showing. It’ll effectively extend your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 30 minutes to an hour, which is more than you’ll get by jumping in line for a ride at the end of the night.

Equally as important, we’ve managed to see the second showing of Fantasmic from spectacular seats without arriving more than 5 minutes in advance of showtime. This has been the case even on evenings when the first performance was quite busy and seats filled up 30 minutes before showtime.

On those same busier days, the late performances of Fantasmic had multiple entire sections that went unfilled. I was able to snag the third row of a great section at (literally) 2 minutes before showtime, and that was on a busy day. That followed doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance shortly before park closing with an actual wait of under 20 minutes.

We followed that strategy repeatedly last year, including during the peak of Spring Break. (With that said, I haven’t tried it since last November and would never recommend anyone else for whom Fantasmic is a must-see cut it so close.)

Animal Kingdom

  • March 8, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • March 9-11, 2024: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • March 12-14, 2024: 7:30am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • March 15-16, 2024: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • March 17-24, 2024: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
  • March 25-30, 2024: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 6pm)

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.”)

Even if those end up being 10/10 crowd level days in Animal Kingdom, you can pretty much run the table on rides by taking advantage of Early Entry and being aggressive with rope drop and the first few hours of the day. The vast majority of guests cannot/will not get up that early. (Just look how many complaints there are about virtual queue start times being at 7am!)

At the opposite end of the day, Animal Kingdom continues to officially close after nightfall for most of these days–even after the clock “springs forward” in March! 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 Spring 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 make it easier to beat crowds, which is a big reason why it’s unfortunate to see Magic Kingdom stick with 9am park opening for so much of Spring Break. At least for Animal Kingdom (and sometimes DHS), the earlier opening is a big advantage to early risers. That plus savvy strategy or knowledge of how to leverage Genie+ and Lightning Lanes can be a gamechanger.

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, the latest rounds of extensions for the second half of March 2024 are a mixed bag. We’d really like to see more for the week of March 18-22 (Orange County’s Spring Break), but maybe–hopefully–Walt Disney World knows something we don’t, and this is a sign crowds won’t actually be that bad. I wouldn’t bank on that, though. Plan to arrive for Early Entry and/or rope drop and employ zig when they zag strategy and a strong Genie+ game (as necessary) to beat the crowds.

Looking forward, it’ll be interesting to see the degree to which park hours are extended in April 2024. They definitely will to some extent since a lot of school districts in the Midwest and Northeast have later breaks, but we don’t anticipate any week in April being busy than mid-March. Who knows, though. Maybe Walt Disney World does. Or maybe they’ll base park hours extensions on last year’s crowd patterns when Easter fell later and the parks were busy until mid-April. Stranger things have happened! We’ll keep you posted.

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 Spring Break season? Disappointed that there aren’t earlier openings or later closings for March 18-22 (or thereabouts)? Is this schedule is reasonable, or are more extensions needed to help absorb crowds? Confused about the lack of extensions for EPCOT? 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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