Walt Disney World has extended park hours for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, with earlier openings and later closings on several dates throughout November and December 2019. In this post, we’ll cover the longer hours, offer background info, and what to expect crowd-wise.
We don’t normally post updated park hours, as these extensions have become a near-monthly occurrence in the last few years. Walt Disney World typically releases boilerplate hours around six months in advance, and then refines those hours as the dates draw nearer (usually 2-3 months in advance).
Invariably, this causes confusion from guests. People wonder why, for example, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is scheduled to open at 9 am and close at 8 pm the weekend it’s debuting a blockbuster new Star Wars attraction in the height of Christmas season (a real example!). Of course, that was never Disney’s plan, those were simply placeholder hours based on the park’s baseline schedule…
As noted above, Walt Disney World releasing these boilerplate hours has been standard operating procedure for the last several years. I don’t know precisely why this practice was implemented, but my guess is that it follows complaints about guests having to book Advance Dining Reservations when Walt Disney World hasn’t even set its calendar.
It’s a valid complaint. Disney expects guests to have their days planned half a year in advance, but the parks can’t be bothered to do the same? Of course, the new practice doesn’t really resolve that complaint. These template calendars are fairly predictable based upon previous years, and often the final hours differ significantly from what DisneyWorld.com initially posts.
Such is the case here, as three of the four Walt Disney World parks have already had their hours extended for the busy Christmas season. We’ll start with a look at the changes for Magic Kingdom’s November and December 2019 park hours:
November 10, 13 & 18: Park closing extended to 10 pm
November 9, 16, 23 & 25-30: Park closing extended to 11 pm
December 4: Park closing extended to 10 pm
December 7: Park hours expanded to 8 am until midnight
Same goes for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’re actually a bit surprised these hours haven’t been further extended, as this is the first year that the entire park will celebrate the holiday season, with an emphasis on a wintry transformation of Discovery Island in the evening.
Currently, Animal Kingdom still has 8 pm park closings for several dates in November after this holiday entertainment begins on November 8, 2019. Granted, sunset occurs around 5:30 pm for many of these dates, but that still doesn’t seem like a lot of time for the new offerings.
In any case, here are the extended hours–for now–at Animal Kingdom for November and December 2019:
November 25-27 & 29: Park closing extended to 9 pm
December 31: Park closing extended to midnight
Lots of changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which previously had a boilerplate 9 am to 8 pm (or 9 pm for the second half of the month) operating calendar for December:
November 24-30: Park hours expanded to 8 am until 10 pm
December 1: Park hours expanded to 8 am until 10 pm
December 2-14: Park closing extended to 9 pm
December 20-30: Park closing extended to 10 pm
December 31: Park closing extended to midnight
In most cases, the parks are simply closing an hour later with a few instances of opening an hour earlier. There are a couple of anomalies here, such as Magic Kingdom’s new 8 am until midnight day on December 7, 2019. (This is almost always a bad weekend, thanks in large part to Pop Warner.)
Just as interesting here is what has not changed significantly. Most notably, we’re looking at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on opening weekend for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Yes, closing was extended by an hour here, but it’s fairly unfathomable that DHS will open at 9 am on the day this blockbuster new attraction debuts. Expect park hours to change–potentially for more than just DHS–for this weekend.
We suspect that Walt Disney World will hold off on extending park hours for that weekend until the last minute. A couple of lessons were undoubtedly learned from the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The first is not to scare people off with excessive amounts of ‘crowd preparation’ information. Expanded park hours alone probably wouldn’t do that, but it’s still a savvy move.
The second is not to prematurely promise something you may not want to deliver. We’ve said this before, but if Disney had waited to announce Extra, Extra Magic Hours for Walt Disney World until after Galaxy’s Edge debuted at Disneyland, they probably wouldn’t have been announced at all. ExEMH is a fairly unprecedented offering based on internal crowd projections that Disney likely would’ve realized were too aggressive within the first week of the new land being open in California.
Accordingly, our expectation is that Walt Disney World will continue to monitor its occupancy and other internal numbers, and extend park hours for the opening weekend of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance closer to that date. (There are also lingering concerns about reliability and attraction uptime that could come into play here.)
Crowd-wise, we’re expecting most of November and December to be very busy. This is hardly a bold prediction. Walt Disney World has seen increasing crowd numbers for the holiday season for the last several years, with the “quiet” low-crowds windows shrinking each year. Even before Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance had its opening date announced, occupancy numbers were solid for December. In other words, don’t expect a repeat of the opening of Galaxy’s Edge–even if the new Star Wars ride doesn’t end up being a strong driver of attendance, Christmas will be.
Suffice to say, you can probably still expect longer hours for additional dates this holiday season. Some will likely be announced in advance based upon projections, while others might be same-day extensions based upon actual attendance. What you should not expect is a redux of Extra, Extra Magic Hours for the entire holiday season. While we’d absolutely love to be wrong on this–and think it’d be a great release valve for what’s shaping up to be a busy holiday season–it appears unlikely that the offering has been utilized by enough guests for Walt Disney World to justify extending it.
What do you think of the current park hours for this Christmas at Walt Disney World? Are you expecting even more extensins for some dates? What about Rise of the Resistance’s opening weekend? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!