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Walt Disney World has added new hours through December 26, 2020 for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios, while also extending hours for nearly every date between the end of October and mid-December 2020–including big increases for Thanksgiving. In this post, we’ll share the updated calendar, new hours for Christmas week, plus commentary on best & worst days of the week for each park.
Let’s begin with a brief recap of Walt Disney World’s roller coaster approach to hours, first cutting, then restoring, and now expanding them. This saga began with Walt Disney World cutting fall hours through Halloween. That was an unpopular decision among fans, but has largely been undone on weekends thanks to extensions that have already occurred the last few weeks. Unfortunately, those are still the current hours for Mondays through Thursdays.
A few weeks after that, Walt Disney World Announced Christmas Entertainment that required nighttime operating hours. In the ensuing weeks, the calendar has been adjusted accordingly with each new release of park hours in November and December 2020. Notably, EPCOT’s hours shifted to 12 pm until 8 pm and Magic Kingdom expanded its hours to 9 am until 7 pm.
That coupled with week by week extensions to Walt Disney World’s park hours has resulted in a more sensible calendar in light of guest behavior and visitation patterns. Here’s the latest update…
New Park Hours
We first have new hours for all four of Walt Disney World’s parks. The calendar was previously posted through December 19, 2020–ending just prior to the week before Christmas, which is typically the start of the busiest two-week stretch of the year at Walt Disney World.
We now have times for Christmas week, through and including December 26, 2020. Those hoping that these hours would be longer from the get-go are going to be disappointed, as these new hours reflect the same shift at EPCOT and extension at Magic Kingdom that were made for November through mid-December.
When looking at these new hours, it’s important to understand that Walt Disney World has returned to its normal practice of releasing boilerplate hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. This initial release serves as a minimum baseline for what the ultimate hours will end up being, with hours only extended and not reduced.
The good news is that pretty much every date prior to Christmas week has seen a variety of extensions (see below). Given those expanded hours plus the fact that the week of December 19-26, 2020 will be far busier than anything before it, the new hours are pretty much worthless. It’s obvious the final hours won’t look anything like the above calendar–at least for 3 of the 4 parks…
On each of the last several Friday calendar updates, Walt Disney World has extended park hours for a weekend or two in the immediate future while releasing one week’s worth of new boilerplate hours. This has been pretty consistent for the last month or so, but makes vacation planning a tad difficult because it’s on such short notice.
Well, those hoping for a more comprehensive calendar update with extensions for more distant dates has gotten their wish this week! Here are the newly-expanded park hours…
Magic Kingdom (9 am to 8 pm)
- October 30, 2020
- November 1, 2020
- November 6-21, 2020
- November 29, 2020 to December 19, 2020
Magic Kingdom (9 am to 9 pm)
- October 31, 2020
- November 22-28, 2020
Some pretty solid extensions here, especially for those highly desirable weekdays in early December.
This has us curious–and maybe we’ll do the math if we’re bored–does Magic Kingdom have more regular operating hours in November 2020 than it did last year? While the increased hours are still reduced as compared to a normal day, the calendar in November is typically dominated by Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which means 6 pm closing times.
Those events can be avoided, but it’s not always easy. Consequently, non-party days are usually significantly busier (especially Saturdays) to the point that we’ve recommended readers visit Magic Kingdom on the 6 pm closing days for the light crowds (and Park Hop…remember that?!). Without question, this year’s 9 am to 8 pm weekdays will be better than those 6 pm closing days. It’s the small victories.
Epcot (11 am to 8 pm)
Epcot (11 am to 9 pm)
- October 30, 2020
- November 1, 2020
- November 6-21, 2020
- November 29, 2020
- December 4-6, 2020
- December 11-19, 2020
Epcot (11 am to 10 pm)
- October 31, 2020
- November 22-28, 2020
Epcot (12 pm to 9 pm)
- November 30 to December 3, 2020
- December 7-10, 2020
- December 14-17, 2020
Sorry that this isn’t organized the most intuitive way. I started my chart with Magic Kingdom before seeing the extent of the changes at EPCOT, and was “in too deep” when I realized this probably was not the best way to display the new hours. The easiest way to survey what has been extended for your travel dates is using the interactive monthly calendar on DisneyWorld.com.
As big fans of evenings at EPCOT, we love to see these extensions. The only downside is that this is going to attract more of the “after work” local audience on the weekdays, likely leading to crowd increases those afternoons. As much as we’ve enjoyed low-crowd weekdays at EPCOT, we’re honestly fine with this. The more things get back to normal at Walt Disney World, the better.
Animal Kingdom (8 am to 6 pm)
- October 30 to November 1, 2020 (park opens at 7 am on Halloween)
- November 6-8, 2020
- November 13-15, 2020
- November 20-21, 2020
- November 29, 2020
- December 4-6, 2020
- December 11-13, 2020
- December 18-19, 2020
Animal Kingdom (8 am to 8 pm)
Nothing really noteworthy about these extensions at Animal Kingdom. The first set of dates follows the established pattern and the second range is Thanksgiving week. Even with the increased crowds, we’re looking forward to those 8 pm closings.
I am a tad surprised by that 7 am park opening time on Halloween, but there must be some justification for it in terms of attendance projections. We’ve just found that very few guests will get up that early to visit the parks–no matter how busy things are predicted to be later in the day.
There are no changes for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is both interesting and concerning. In our recent Disney’s Hollywood Studios Crowd Report: Morning Highs & Evening Lows, we showcase the troubles with this park. Even though many headliners get very long lines early in the day, DHS is still not a full day park right now.
However, our proposed “solution” to this is not maintaining the shorter hours–it’s bringing back stage shows and other entertainment. That would give guests a way to round out their day, keep them in the park longer, and also provide justification for longer hours–which in turn would give more people a chance to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
The lack of extensions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is concerning because it suggests that there are no plans to bring back additional stage shows for the rest of 2020. Of course, hours are always subject to change so it’s possible circumstances could evolve and DHS could receive its expanded hours at a later date. Hopefully that’s the case…but this doesn’t have us too optimistic.
Finally, we’ll rehash our best and worst days to visit each of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Note that there’s a ton of fluidity to things right now–if you’re planning for November or December, you’ll want to keep an eye on our Walt Disney World Park Reports, which we’ve been trying to do every week.
With that said, our top recommendation is still to avoid Walt Disney World on the weekends. That’s unlikely to change outside of holiday weeks. The extended weekend hours are attractive, but the cost is elevated crowds as compared to weekdays in 3 of the parks. Wait times are ~40% higher on weekends, so the increase in operating hours by 10-20% doesn’t offset that. Simply put, you can get more done in less time on weekdays.
If your visit encompasses a weekend, do Disney’s Hollywood Studios at least one of those days. Since DHS is hitting capacity or coming close to it on weekdays as well as weekends, there is almost no difference in crowds there among the days of the week.
To be clear, that means it feels equally busy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios every day instead of just weekends being crowded like the other parks. Be aware that it has become increasingly difficult to score a spot in the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We’d peg the odds at under 50%, so you might want to pencil in two days for DHS if that’s a must-do, changing your second Disney Park Pass reservation if you’re successful the first day.
EPCOT is the worst pick on weekends for the exact opposite reason. Our recent EPCOT Photo Report: Stay Away on Weekends flew under the radar, but that should be essential reading. It’s arguably the most important piece of advice for families visiting in the next few months (perhaps beyond).
Mondays through Wednesdays are all equally good for EPCOT. We’ve noticed a slight uptick in crowds on Thursdays, and a more significant one on Fridays. Still, not nearly as bad as Saturday or Sunday.
As for the your other weekend choice, it’s sort of a toss-up between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. We recently did the former on a Friday, and covered it in our Magic Kingdom Weekend Report: Beating Heavier Crowds & Higher Waits. That was a solid experience, with the best part being covered in Our Enjoyable Evening in Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom is a good pick Monday through Thursday, with Wednesday being the best day of the week there from an objective perspective. (It’s not markedly better.) From a subjective perspective, we do like those longer hours on Fridays.
Likewise, Animal Kingdom is attractive on weekends thanks to the 8 am opening time. Most locals–the primary demographic on weekends–are not going to get up that early, so you can still accomplish an efficient itinerary solely by virtue of arriving early–or even staying late.
We just did Animal Kingdom today–both a Friday and a holiday weekend–and had a great experience. Monday through Thursday definitely have lower crowds, but those 2 extra hours offer tremendous upside.
Ultimately, Walt Disney World crowds are still entirely manageable if you properly strategize no matter which day of the week you visit. Midday wait times have been bad and lines are lengthy, but it’s possible to beat the crowds. Visiting exclusively on weekdays will be the best low crowds experience, even if it means shorter hours. How you order the parks Mondays through Thursdays matters less, but we’d recommend doing Magic Kingdom on Wednesday or Thursday and EPCOT earlier in the week, but that’s really it.
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World for a long weekend, do Magic Kingdom on Friday, Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Saturday, Animal Kingdom on Sunday, and EPCOT on Monday. In testing a variety of approaches, that’s the one with which we’ve been the happiest. (Swapping MK and DAK can also work.) The longer hours arguably are worth the higher crowd levels, especially if you value sunset and dusk in the parks. Keep in mind, that’s our advice right now. Things keep changing, and so too could day of week strategy.
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!
What are your thoughts about the latest Walt Disney World calendar changes? Happy to see hours extended for November through mid-December 2020? Concerned that this means crowd forecasts are continuing to increase? Will you be visiting Walt Disney World for the holiday seasons? Does this modified schedule influence your decision to visit or not? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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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