Disney World Changes & Extends November 2020 Park Hours
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…
Then Walt Disney World Announced Christmas Entertainment. At that point, we became skeptical of the previously-released November 2020 park hours, speculating that those were merely boilerplate placeholders. As it turns out, we were right.
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!
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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!
Pandora is beautiful at night and with AK closing at 5 you don’t get to enjoy the beauty in that part of the park. Tom, do you think they may close a little later during the holiday? I am being hopeful. I miss seeing Pandora at night and was looking forward to seeing it lite up in Dec.
Also, I am not getting notifications anymore if you or anyone reply’s on your posts.
Please tell me where I can go to change a setting so that I can change it to get notifications.
Tom, are they still doing the Kiss Goodnight at Magic Kingdom?
I hate that we will not see Pandora at dark. The lights are so pretty. We are going end of October but they close at 5pm. 🙁
Exciting news! We are arriving on November 6th when Christmas begins! Do you think all the parks will be decorated by that date? We have never been during holiday seasons.
This isn’t directly related, but, I’m starting to see commercials on TV for Disney World. So, I’m assuming that Disney is also beginning to push for tourists outside of the Florida area to start coming? Hopefully, they will also gradually extend hours and continue to open more things up.
Tom, will the story telling Santa’s be out this year back in work showcase?
No official announcement, but I highly doubt it.
Have you heard any news on the live shows coming back? We have our Disneymoon book for our the end of February first of March and wondering what will be back by than. We are planning to go to Sea World for a day because they are doing fireworks.
Will be in Dw Nov-22 thru Nov 28 , and what do you think the chances are that they update hours Again before then? We decided to go to Epcot on thanksgiving Day because of more food options but now I’m wondering if I should go to a different one that day if you think it will be the most crowded with locals flooding to Epcot ! WHat do you think?
I have had to reschedule my trips so many times, I’ve lost count. I wish they would still choose to extend hours a bit for the Halloween season starting this month. Since we are unable to have the Not So Scary Halloween Party, it would be a nice trade off. More frustrating is the fact that daily pricing of the tickets doesn’t reflect the hours reduced in each park!
I am fairly sure it’s all about the costs. Keeping park hours to one 8 hour day means you don’t need to PAY as many employees to work as you would otherwise. One 8 hour shift for the majority of your park employees reduces your overhead by a substantial amount. If you extend your hours much past 9 hours then you will have to bring an entire second shift in doubling your overhead.
This doesn’t actually keep people safer since, those on site, all have to go back to the resort around the exact same time with not much to do but wander around and use the pools. It also will greatly increase the crowd levels at the resort eateries since people aren’t going to want to eat dinner in the parks as much if they are closing around dinner time.
It will also increase crowding at DS since that’s the only place open later into the evenings and if you want to resort hop your limited to going THRU DS after the parks close (Unless you have your own transportation or want to use Uber)
We recently got our passes renewed and this is good news. We’re local and have a little one so we’re only going to do a half day anyway. I agree they need afternoon slots. We’re going to go and see the animals at Animal Kingdom and maybe ride the Safari, and the Navi River. There is no reason someone else couldn’t be let in when we leave for nap time at the resort. We also are pretty risk adverse so we’ll mostly be outside. When we go to Magic Kingdom, granted we do want to ride Peter Pan’s Flight but we’re mostly there for things like Dumbo and a Carousel.
I don’t believe they are maliciously being mean to passholders they went out of their way to make sure my kids birthday trip we be smooth and we’re “just” locals.
Thanks for your blogs, Tom! I have been wondering for a little bit now if Disney has been keeping park hours shorter in the evenings because they are attempting to get as much construction/work finished for the 50th Anniversary as possible without guests in the parks? This might be kind of a “kill 2 birds with 1 stone” situation. Thoughts?
Thank you for all you do-I read everyday and can’t wait for our upcoming trip! Going to try and book a reservation at Cinderella’s royal table for mid November dinner. Was originally going to book as late as possible, but now reconsidering because don’t want to miss the light show. Wondering what time would be ideal to eat there and still be able to see the show? Any advice from Tom or readers would be greatly appreciated since we’ve been to MK a few times, but we’ve not done the royal table or stayed for evening events. Thank you!
Hi Tom, love your blog.
I’m curious though about Epcot’s hours. From all I can tell they have only officially changed Epcot’s hours on Nov 27th and 28th. I’m certainly hoping they extend them beyond that but I’m not sure it’s official.
We’ll be there over Christmas this year!
I just wish they wouold rethink Epcots new hours to start Nov. 6 like MK. Would like more time there at night also.
I did happen to notice in Shanghai Disney that meet and greets have returned in mid-August (which is three months after reopening) but the only difference is there is no photographer and it’s socially-distanced selfies only. I hope Disney World does that too by December. If so, then I am more likely to still go.
Hi Tom! We’re going November 4-8, and I’m very excited to see the closing time extension for Magic Kingdom. Do you think we may see even further operating hour time extensions for the holiday season?
Long time listener first time caller- Back in the mass of comments from other posts I remember one person supposing that Disney keeping all their hours in the daytime was so that they could SEE that everyone had masks on. That, perhaps, Disney wasn’t quite ready to risk being blamed for a spreading event. Maybe now they are more comfortable with their safety numbers? Just a guess. I love Disney at night. When my husband and I were in Japan we didn’t even show up until 11am or so because the evening hours were the richest.
I saw that comment, but I don’t think that was Disney’s rationale at all.
The only park that has worse issues with compliance later in the day is EPCOT, and that has little to do with darkness and everything to do with guests drinking all day and letting their guard down. If Disney’s primary concern were perfect mask compliance, they’d restrict World Showcase alcohol sales. Obviously, that’s not happening.
Maybe it’s at least partially a budget decision? It seem that any considerations should include the operational cost of nighttime operations (electricity for light and lower crowds/lower spending than daytime). If they‘re limiting park attendence, it seems wise condense park hours to when attendence higher (daylight) and get the most bang for their buck for both when the majority of visitors prefer to be in the park while limiting their cost of running the park for the day. Most visitors don’t get up super early, don’t stay late or return to park once they leave.
(When we were there last December, overall crowds and lines for rides, food/drinks and souvenirs were always all lower at night. And although there were always rope drop ‘crowds’, overall, that more seem to arrive in the morning after rope drop.)
It makes sense to limit hours to best crowd hours, both to meet the customer demands and increase profitability.
On a positive note, I think reduced hours and events can also have a psychological effect that reinforces new safety rules. Big stressed crowds usually fell less relaxed and less considerate and usually impact my own mood.
I think it would be hard to change my “park visitor“ behavior and expectations, if WDW was operating like everything’s back to normal.
For myself, I don’t love the current changes, but I can understand why it’s the current model right now.
A step in the right direction , but still puzzled why they wouldn’t do more later openings with later closings to at least give onsite Folks (Who pay the top dollar) a nighttime option ? Is COVID more dangerous at 8pm than 3pm? Is it more expensive to operate at 8pm than 3pm? Still puzzled
Disney’s traditional thinking has been that families with small children–WDW’s most coveted demographic in normal times–would rather be up and out in the morning rather than later at night.
However, that is absolutely not the core demographic right now (barely any strollers in sight!) so it was a miscalculation when park hours were originally cut. It also didn’t consider the simple reality of fall weather–in September, the daytime hours are miserable even without a mask!
Not even suggesting killing the stroller crowd , how about keeping ONE park, ANY park, open til 9pm for the option for those families that prefer Disney at night ? Not like people are gonna park hop and screw up their staffing plans – park reservations can dictate their schedules to make sure they don’t push overcapacity at the night time park
We are planning on coming the 21st and 22nd. Unfortunately, we haven’t been in a few years because of budget. Would love to experience the magic for a couple days after the LONG quarantine we’ve experienced and the hard days we’ve had with school.
What type of prediction do you have for how busy the parks will be? Is it worth the price we are having to pay?
Thanks, Tom. We’ll be there mid-Nov.