Walt Disney World has made several changes to its November 2020 calendar, releasing hours for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios through Thanksgiving weekend, while extending Christmas season hours at Magic Kingdom and shifting the daily schedule for EPCOT. In this post, we’ll cover details with commentary on why this is happening.
By way of quick recap, this saga started back in early August when Walt Disney World dramatically cut fall park hours from the stretch following Labor Day up until Halloween. As the 150+ comments to that announcement can attest, it was not exactly a popular decision among readers of this blog.
Thereafter, Walt Disney World began releasing hours week by week for November that simply reflected an extension of the fall hours. For the first couple of weeks, our assumption was that this was simply because Walt Disney World would start celebrating Christmas later than normal this year, perhaps foolishly adhering to the antiquated “Turkey Before Tree” maxim…
In fairness, this wasn’t exactly a brilliant or bold prediction. We were simply going off of past precedent for pretty much every month in the last 5 years prior to this March. However, in this era of temporary abnormal, all bets are off. Plus, we’ve been wrong a few times lately, so we’ll savor the victories, however small!
Cutting to the chase, Walt Disney World has extended park hours for Magic Kingdom beginning November 6, 2020. Previously, the hours were 9 am until 6 pm. Now, they’re 9 am until 7 pm.
That’s not a colossal change, but it’s absolutely a step in the right direction.
Most significantly, it provides time for the Cinderella Castle Christmas projections to be visible. As previously noted, sunset on that date in Lake Buena Vista, Florida is 5:36 pm.
In a normal year, the first showing of “A Frozen Holiday Wish” is presented at 6:15 pm in early November. That’s typically when dusk begins and the earliest time when it’s sufficiently dark for a castle lighting—or projections.
These new hours will give guests around an hour of the operating day to capture photos of the Cinderella Castle Christmas projections. When you factor in time that Main Street is open post-closing, it’s more like 2 hours.
Equally as important (if not more so from Disney’s perspective), this will encourage guests to stay in Magic Kingdom later in the day. That means potentially doing both lunch and dinner in the park, spending more money on snacks, etc.
Turning next to EPCOT, we have a shift in park hours beginning November 27, 2020. Prior to that date, EPCOT’s hours are 11 am until 7 pm (those are the daily hours from now until November 26). On that date and thereafter, the park’s hours become 12 pm until 8 pm.
Obviously, this is the same length of time (8 hours) but it’s another step in the right direction.
It’s also something I’ve suggested repeatedly in various blog posts since the previous announcement. (Not trying to pat myself on the back too much here, but just let me have this one!)
Our recent EPCOT Update derided the earlier closing, calling it “illogical” and a “bad decision.” And that was putting it fairly diplomatically. Suffice to say, it was a half-baked decision that it’s nice to see being partially undone.
The reason this is a good move, in case you’ve missed my litany of complaints, is because EPCOT is normally the “locals’ park” and right now Walt Disney World is being attended disproportionately by Floridians per Disney’s own statements.
That’s why Walt Disney World is seeing low crowds on weekdays but moderate crowds on weekends at every Walt Disney World theme park. It’s quite simply because most locals work Monday through Friday. With limited post-work operating hours, there’s no sense in burning a Park Pass reservation or time (much less a full day’s worth of admission). Hence most locals visiting on the weekends instead.
In addition to the extension at Magic Kingdom and shift at EPCOT, Walt Disney World also released another week’s worth of hours–meaning November 22-28, 2020–for all parks.
During that time, Animal Kingdom will continue its current schedule of 9 am until 5 pm and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will maintain its 10 am until 7 pm hours. (If our explanation is too scattered, you can view Walt Disney World’s November 2020 operating calendar here.)
I’ve been sharply critical of Walt Disney World in the past couple of months when it comes to operations. First with regard to the lethargic pace of adjustments to the Disney Park Pass reservation system and then on the short-sighted reduction of park hours.
As discussed in our Labor Day “Crowdpocalypse” commentary, the Park Pass approach was (partially) vindicated. More than just the system being proven necessary, it’s clear Walt Disney World is starting to better leverage it, reallocate capacity, and dynamically tweak Disney Park Pass inventory. Last month, we probably would’ve given Park Pass a C- grade, but right now, it’d get a B+ (still would love to see staggered entry times, or afternoon slots).
With that said, I am very encouraged by Walt Disney World’s changes to park hours for November 2020. We’re finally starting to see responsiveness and incremental improvements on that front. To a degree, it’s understandable that Walt Disney World would want to cut operating expenses. The reopening did not go as smoothly as planned, and many guests got cold feet due to Florida’s rising (at the time) numbers and cancelled for travel dates through the fall.
However, cutting hours from the evening rather than the morning never made sense. Not in terms of weather, not in terms of guest demographics, and not in terms of best times for experiencing Halloween or Christmas. This extension or shift in park hours for Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, will substantively small, is a positive development.
I’ve been critical of Walt Disney World in the past few months, but I’m really optimistic about general trends in the last couple of weeks. Along with the other recent changes–regular Park Pass inventory dumps, lifting Cast Member blockouts, extending merchandise discounts, offering Florida resident deals, releasing targeted PIN code offers, and more–signals that Disney “gets it” and is starting to be more dynamic in navigating this ‘temporary abnormal.’ As an organization, Disney is a big ship that turns slowly, but we’re starting to see that happen. Hopefully Walt Disney World will make more positive adjustments between now and the end of 2020!
Surprised by the extension to Magic Kingdom’s Christmas-time operating hours, or did you expect this? Do you anticipate Walt Disney World will make additional extensions if demand picks up? Or will ‘fine tune’ operating hours–extending, reducing, or shifting as appropriate? Will you be visiting Walt Disney World in November 2020? Does this modified schedule influence your decision to visit this holiday season? 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!