Walt Disney World has announced Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs will begin a phased reopening on September 30, 2022. This post provides park hours, dates & details, plus a rundown of all operational updates to Central Florida theme parks and attractions.
With regard to the storm system itself, Hurricane Ian was downgraded to Tropical Storm Ian on Thursday morning–but has since returned to hurricane status now that it’s back over the ocean. The system dumped record amounts of rain and brought “catastrophic flooding” across Florida while packing damaging winds across a 415-mile swath of the state.
Walt Disney World saw roughly one foot of precipitation, with areas of Osceola and Orange Counties reporting 12 to 16 inches of rain. Some roads around Central Florida are still flooded, and the Orlando International Airport remains closed at this time. Governor DeSantis has called the storm a “500-year flood event” and indicated that it’s still a “hazardous situation.”
Here’s the latest from Walt Disney World: “We are seeing the impacts of Hurricane Ian across Florida and are thinking of our neighbors in Central Florida and across the state. We will share more information about our plan to support relief efforts for our Florida neighbors soon.
We thank our first responders and community leaders for their courageous efforts in preparing for and managing the storm’s impact. To our Cast Members in Florida and in South Carolina, thank you for selflessly taking care of our guests.
We continue to closely monitor weather conditions as we assess the impact of Hurricane Ian on our property. While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests today, we anticipate weather conditions improving this evening. Walt Disney World Resort will resume theme park and Disney Springs operations in a phased approach starting on Friday, Sept. 30.”
Operating hours have now been announced by Walt Disney World for Friday, September 30:
- Early Entry: 8 am
- Regular Park Open: 10 am
- Regular Park Close: 6 pm
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Mix-In: 4 pm
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party: 7 pm to 12 am
- Early Entry: 9 am
- Regular Park Open: 11 am
- Regular Park Close: 9 pm
- Early Entry: 11 am
- Regular Park Open: 1 pm
- Regular Park Close: 7 pm
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Early Entry: 10 am
- Regular Park Open: 12 pm
- Regular Park Close: 9 pm
Fantasia Gardens & Fairways Miniature Golf
Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
Additionally, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will all remain closed through Friday, September 30.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is currently scheduled to reopen for its next scheduled voyage on October 1, 2022.
Honestly, I’m a bit shocked that all 4 parks are reopening tomorrow and that it’s happening so early in the day. This is not consistent with what Universal and SeaWorld are doing, but it does appear that they had worse flooding.
When it comes to Walt Disney World’s ‘phased reopening,’ this is not what I would’ve predicted. My guess was that just Magic Kingdom and EPCOT would return Friday, with the former opening early due to MNSSHP but the latter not greeting guests until around noon. I did expect a ‘soft opening’ to on-site guests, so I guess I got that part right!
We aren’t in Florida and thus won’t be visiting Walt Disney World this weekend to check things out, but this isn’t our first post-hurricane rodeo. How this plays out with crowds and wait times is relatively predictable.
Even without full hours or everything firing on all cylinders, it should be a relatively quiet Friday at Walt Disney World–and a similar story over the weekend. There are a few variables at play that lead us to this prediction.
Orlando International Airport has not been open for ~2 days, and thus, no new tourists have been arriving during that time frame. While it’s also true that no one has been leaving, there was a mass exodus prior to the start of the storm.
That’ll largely continue when MCO does reopen, as those who got stranded won’t (for the most part) be able to extend their trips even longer. (When MCO reopens is still TBD. Many Friday flights have already been cancelled. Below is the latest update from the airport, which was released on Thursday morning.)
In addition to airline cancellations, there’s also the matter of ongoing vacation cancellations for current and future visitors to Walt Disney World. With so much uncertainty, many visitors with trips planned through early October have already cancelled or rescheduled.
Accordingly, the incoming numbers will be lower–not higher–than normal for the next several days. This is not going to be a pent-up demand situation. People didn’t simply push back their trips by a week–many rescheduled for Christmas, early 2023, or other dates in the future.
When it comes to locals, the dynamic is less predictable. Some will still be recovering and cleaning up from the storm, making repairs to their homes, cleaning up debris, and so forth. That might cause many who otherwise planned on visiting Walt Disney World over the weekend to alter their plans.
Conversely, Floridians were just stuck inside for two straight days. Many will be restless and ready to get out and do something. That means visiting parks, particularly EPCOT to blow off steam. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if mornings start out slow, but World Showcase is busier on Saturday night.
“Busier” is still a relative term. Walt Disney World attendance is still driven by tourists and there will be far fewer out of state visitors over the weekend. Tourists won’t be back in full force for a good week.
We’re pretty confident in this prediction because that’s how Irma and even near-miss storm systems more recently have played out. (Although a different dynamic, it’s also what we saw following the COVID reopening. The recovery didn’t really start until travel resumed in earnest.)
In short, the lack of tourists in the coming days will more than offset the ongoing closures, shortened hours, and capacity reductions.
Speaking of which, please pack your patience if heading out to Walt Disney World this weekend. Cast Members who are back at work just went through a potentially traumatic experience, and are likely still dealing with the aftermath at home. Kindness and grace are always the best policy, but especially at a time like this.
There’s also the reality that their stress due to the storm’s aftermath will likely be exacerbated by staffing shortages. Understandably, not all Cast Members will be able to return to work this weekend. That means those who are back are being asked to do more, and will be stretched thin. Don’t be surprised if Mobile Orders take longer, service is slower at table service restaurants, etc. Hopefully, the drop-off in demand will mean there’s enough bandwidth that this never becomes a major issue.
Another thing to note is that Walt Disney World has removed Park Pass reservation availability for Friday. This actually happened yesterday, but it has not yet been restored.
UPDATE: It has now been restored and there’s availability only for EPCOT. This is not indicative of anticipated crowd levels in the other parks. It’s Disney pushing people towards EPCOT. We’ve seen this time and time again in the last several months–this is just a more extreme example of Disney manipulating or redistributing attendance.
When the parks do reopen, don’t be surprised if certain attractions don’t reopen right away. Anything with a lot of trees is an obvious candidate for a prolonged closure. If I recall correctly, it took Jungle Cruise a day or two after Hurricane Irma to reopen.
It might be a similar story with trails and attractions in Animal Kingdom. Outside the parks, there might be resorts that are out of commission entirely or have areas closed off due to downed trees. Fort Wilderness is the most obvious example, but not the only one–many resorts have a lot of trees.
To that point, Walt Disney World has extended its ban or block on new bookings at the resorts. While it appears that check-ins will resume tomorrow at 3 pm, that’s only for existing reservations.
New resort reservations are now suspended through October 2, 2022 at this time. New reservations can once again be booked beginning on October 3, 2022. (Probably not relevant to many of you–cannot imagine much interest in last-minute getaways to Orlando.) More than anything else, this is probably a courtesy to displaced Floridians who will want or need to extend their stays due to flooding at their homes.
Here’s our latest look at all of the closures at other theme parks in Central Florida…
Universal Orlando is continuing to conduct assessment and recovery efforts across its entire resort with the safety of our guests and team members being top priority. Universal released a statement that they “expect to begin a phased reopen of portions of our destination for our hotel guests only beginning Friday, Sept. 30.”
Universal will release information on operating hours for Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park, and Universal CityWalk Orlando as soon as conditions allow. Although nothing is official, it appears highly likely that Halloween Horror Nights will be cancelled on at least September 30, 2022.
The resort hotels of Universal Orlando Resort are all operational. The Universal Orlando Resort Guest Contact Center is currently experiencing higher than expected wait times and is currently assisting guests whose travel is directly affected by the hurricane. If your travel dates are after September 30, please call back at a later date.
Due to Hurricane Ian, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Adventure Island, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, and Discovery Cove parks will remain closed through Friday, September 30. The parks expect to reopen on Saturday, October 1.
Busch Gardens and SeaWorld Howl-O-Scream tickets for September 30 have been extended through October 31. All date-intended tickets for September 27 (at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay), 28, 29 and 30 (all parks listed above) have been extended through December 31.
Similarly, LEGOLAND Florida Resort and Peppa Pig Theme Park will be closed Friday, Sept 30, 2022 due to Hurricane Ian. LEGOLAND Hotel and Pirate Island Hotel will remain open to guests with existing reservations.
Any tickets dated for September 28 through Sunday October 2 will be automatically extended through December 31, 2022.
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!
Are you currently at Walt Disney World or Central Florida? Have you visited during past hurricanes? Any additional info, thoughts, or first-hand experiences to share about riding out a hurricane at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!