Before we get started, let me just say that I would go to Disney World at ANY time! But, to maximize your vacation time and save money, many people wonder what are the best times to go to Disney World. Well, you’re in luck today because I’m going to lay out the best times to visit Disney World that will maximize the amount of fun you will have on your trip.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when deciding the top times to visit Disney World. They are all linked together, too. They are the weather; crowd levels; special events; and seasonal pricing. You’ll find that pricing depends on what events bring in more crowds, so you can assume the more popular an event, the busier it is, and the more expensive it will be. At the end of the article, I will reveal what I think is the best time for ME to visit the parks. But first, I will break down each aspect to help you determine when you would like to travel to Disney World.
It’s no secret that Florida is usually hot. Being so far south and closer to the equator, you can expect to experience high heat almost throughout the whole year. Temperatures in the summer can reach high 90s to 100+ degrees with very high humidity, while the winter months have an average high of around 65-70 degrees. If you are from the northern U.S. and not used to the heat of Florida, you may want to avoid the summer and early fall. On the other hand, if you are originally from a southern state and don’t mind the heat, January could feel pretty chilly to you! So choosing when to visit Disney based on weather all depends on what you can personally tolerate. Check out historical temperature trends for Orlando before booking your trip so you can be prepared. Also, keep in mind that hurricane season lasts from June – November in Florida, even though Disney World is located in the center of the state and is less affected by these storms.
Disney has done a very good job with placing special events during times that need an uptick in attendance at the parks and occupancy in their hotels. Rarely will you find a time where something isn’t going on that is unique at one of the parks. You may find that some of these events interest you, but keep in mind that it may be crowded and more expensive to do so. Here are some noteable Disney events that happen throughout the year:
Disney loves to space out their running events at slow times and they actually started the runDisney events to help get people into the parks during the slow times of the year. These are generally weekend running experiences that often sell out almost a year beforehand. VERY popular. There may be 1 mile fun runs, 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, full marathons, or all the above, in one weekend. Here is when they are held:
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – 1st weekend in January
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – last weekend in February
- Star Wars Marathon Weekend – 3rd weekend in April
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – 1st weekend in November.
Epcot’s World Showcase Events
Epcot now has a special event happening in the World Showcase all throughout the year, minus the summer months. Because they occur almost constantly, the crowds are not as affected as other events. Here’s what they are and when they occur:
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts – January – February
- Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – March – May
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – end of August – mid November
- Holidays Around the World at Epcot – after Thanksgiving – end of December
Holiday Hard Ticket Events at Magic Kingdom
Halloween and Christmas are popular holidays during which to visit the parks. Guests are able to buy special tickets for two events, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These events are very popular and can cause the Magic Kingdom to become very crowded but the events are popular for a reason… because they are fun, so it can be worth the crowds if they do happen while you’re there.
Time Of The Year/Crowd Levels
If you are looking for a time that the Disney World parks are practically empty, you won’t find it anymore. Gone are the times when you could walk on to every single ride and never have to wait in line. Disney World no longer has slow seasons, only SLOWER seasons. Below I’ll outline the top times to visit Disney World and some of the reasons for each as well.
End of January Through Beginning of February
If you don’t mind weather that can’t make up its mind (the temperature can fluctuate), January can be the time of year with the lowest crowds. Martin Luther King, Jr. day has already passed and school is in session across the country. I have been during this time and I loved being to able to literally walk on to almost every ride. Very little wait for anything, really. If you really don’t like hoards of people, but want to enjoy Disney World, go during this time.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Since it is a time during low crowds, the parks can have a number of attractions closed for refurbishment. They also only have one water park open, as the other closes for a few months for its yearly rehab. And, as was mentioned above, the weather can be unpredictable, so you have to pack for hot and cold weather. So if you can handle those things, you are golden!
The Month of May
If you ask my mother her favorite time to go, weather wise, she’d say beginning of May. It’s not too hot or humid, and it doesn’t rain too much. Crowds are relatively low, as schools have not yet let out for the summer. Yet, why I like to go during May has to do with the events.
The EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival is held from the beginning of March to the end of May, and is truly an example of beauty that Spring brings. Hundreds of skilled landscapers, gardeners, and horticulture experts display their works of art, share tips, and hold demonstrations. You can see hundreds of topiaries spread throughout the park. Some are in the shape of Disney characters!
Early Fall, September Through Early October
Are you a foodie who enjoys traveling around the world to try new dishes? Are you a wino? If so, you have to go to Walt Disney World during the International Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT. This annual event continues to grow in popularity and Disney extends the start date earlier every year. For 2017, it will be held from August 31st – November 13th in the World Showcase section of the park. You can attend seminars and demonstrations, go to tasting events, and enjoy food from over 30 different cultures and locations around the world. Even celebrities show up! I would suggest trying to attend this event during the week, as the weekends are very busy with Florida locals in attendance. And, try the Eat to the Beat Concert series, where legendary performers take the stage and perform their greatest hits. It’s so much fun!
Another special event happening during this time is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Kids and adults alike take part in this Halloween takeover of the Magic Kingdom. The park closes at 7pm on nights during this event unless you hold a special ticket for the party. Then, you can spend hours meeting special characters, going on thrilling rides, viewing a Halloween party-themed parade, and experiencing special Halloween shows you can’t see anywhere else.
For me, I would aim to visit during the middle and end of September, as both events are going on, plus the crowds are fairly low.
After Thanksgiving and Before Christmas
Without a doubt, Disney World is at its most beautiful during the Christmas holiday season. At the beginning of November, all of the Halloween decorations come down and the Christmas ones go up (and rather quickly, might I add). Magic Kingdom’s Main Street seems to transform into a mystical winter wonderland overnight! The decorations, special shows and parades, and special ticketed event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, all continue for about two months.
While Christmas time is, in my opinion, a great time to visit, I would strongly suggest that you avoid taking a vacation between the third week of December through the first or second week of January. I would also advise to stay away from Thanksgiving week, too. All the parks are jam packed and hotel prices are super high. In 2013, my husband and I flew in the Thursday before Thanksgiving and stayed for 5 days before leaving. For the first 3 days, the crowds were not that bad. But on Sunday, the 4th day, it felt as if someone opened the floodgates and let all the people in! We were happy to be leaving the next day, just to avoid the crowds. The crowd levels are the best during the first half of both November and December. (And, if you go in the beginning of November, you can catch the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, too!)
Pro Tip: Pay Attention To Seasonal Pricing
This one is mentioned last since it depends on a lot of the times listed above but is something to pay attention to for sure. Disney has many “seasons” during the year when it comes to the pricing structure of their hotels, and also their tickets most recently. Rule of thumb is that if park attendance is high, the cost of Disney resort hotels will also be high (lower crowds = lower price). So if you are looking to visit the resort area at a time that’s not too expensive, pick an expected lighter crowds time period. This is usually marked at “value” season.
Are you ready to hear what in my opinion is the best time to visit Disney? It’s during first half of December!! For me, this checks off my list in all 4 categories. The weather is mild, there are at least two different events going on that envelope the Christmas spirit, the crowd levels are moderate, and it’s not crazy expensive! That’s a WIN WIN WIN WIN in my book!
If you are thinking,”Oh no! I can only travel to Disney World in July,” don’t panic. Yes, it will be very hot and crowded and a tad bit more pricey, but you can still enjoy your vacation! Just go in prepared with proper expectations and you’ll have a great time.
If you think I’m wrong here, when do you think is the best time to visit Disney World?
By Jamie Lee
Jamie is a lifelong Disney fanatic that has been going to Disney parks since she was a child. She is the head writer here at Capture The Magic & co-host of the Capture The Magic Podcast. When she isn't planning her next Disney vacation, she can be found helping people plan their own Disney vacations and enjoying quality time with her family.
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