Our guide to January 2024 at Walt Disney World offers a free crowd calendar, days to visit & avoid, weather, seasonal events, planning tips, and when Christmas decorations are taken down. We cover everything at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
Typically, January is the month of the holiday hangover at Walt Disney World. Some Christmas entertainment continues for a few days in early January, and there are still decorations up for the first half of the month. January’s big draws are the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts and the Walt Disney World Marathon.
Aside from those events, January tends to be relatively quiet. Most guests who want to visit during the winter do so in November or December of the previous year. Those who begin planning a visit for the new year typically don’t visit until Easter or Spring Break. As such, there are a lot of upsides to visiting in January, from light crowds to favorable weather. Of course, there are some downsides, too…
I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of Walt Disney World before mid-January. To me, it really does feel like a hangover. There are straggler decorations that feel out of place or forgotten, and the weather can be frigid. This is entirely a matter of personal preference, as I know some people enjoy being able to see Christmas decorations without dealing with the crowds. Personally, once Christmas is over, I’m done with the holiday.
Here’s what else you can expect from January at Walt Disney World…
January Weather at Disney World
If you go by historical averages, January is the coldest month of the year at Walt Disney World. In my experience, November through February can have weather ranging from cold to downright balmy, but January tends to have more of the former category than the other winter months. Expect weather on average from the upper-40s to low-70s.
Packing for January weather requires preparing for a wide range of weather conditions, and you’ll want to make sure you attention to the extended forecast before your trip so you don’t get surprised with a streak of 30-degree weather or 90-degree weather and not have the proper attire for either extreme.
Between the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts and the Walt Disney World Marathon, January isn’t quite the “sleepy” month it once was. We absolutely love the annual Festival of the Arts, which will run from January 12 until February 19, 2024 at Walt Disney World. Read our Guide to the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts for more info and tips about this special event.
The 2024 Walt Disney World Marathon will occur January 3-7, 2024 and will be held live and in person. If you’re doing the WDW Marathon or any other race and need last-minute “training” “advice” (air quotes around both), see our Idiot’s Guide to runDisney.
Normally, there’s a “holiday hangover” for a couple of weeks at Walt Disney World. During that time, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and (to a lesser degree) Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom parks still decorated for Christmas.
There’s no other Christmas entertainment and not really anything else of substance, but you can expect to hear music and see decorations until around January 8, 2024. After that, decorations will gradually go down and the music will stop playing–but it’s not like flipping a switch overnight. It’ll take a week-plus for all signs of the season to vanish. (There’s more info about all of this in our Ultimate Walt Disney World Christmas Guide.)
This is at least partially due to the Walt Disney World Marathon. Many runners postpone their November or December trips in order to run the event in early January, and enjoy seeing the illuminated Christmas decorations on the course in the early morning hours. Consequently, most decorations left up until that weekend and taken down shortly thereafter.
January Refurbishments & New Attractions
In terms of other attractions that will be closed during January 2024, check the Walt Disney World Refurbishment Schedule. High profile attractions that will go down during the winter off-season include Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Kali River Rapids, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frozen Ever After, and more.
The good news is that Walt Disney World is no longer a veritable construction zone, as most major projects have now wrapped up and the next development cycle has yet to begin. This is most noticeable in the front of EPCOT, which is no longer a complete sea of construction walls with a giant dirt pit in the middle.
The one exception is CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, which remains behind walls. Walt Disney World hasn’t given an opening date for that and it’s not mentioned in details for the 2024 EPCOT Festival of the Arts. Given that and the Odyssey being used along with visible progress on the project, our guess is that CommuniCore Hall opens for the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, which starts February 28, 2024.
Another alternative for Cosmic Rewind is buying line-skipping access via the Individual Lightning Lanes. Those posts explain the free and paid options, their pros & cons, and everything else you need to know. Suffice to say, do not just show up to EPCOT expecting to join the standby line–as there isn’t one.
Then there’s the biggest addition to Magic Kingdom: TRON Lightcycle Run. This is the newest major attraction at Walt Disney World, having officially opened last April–it’ll be over a year old by May 2024, but still very much having that new ride smell (and popularity!). This works very similarly to Cosmic Rewind; see our Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for details, tips & tricks for success, and more.
Bouncing back to EPCOT, there’s a bunch of other new stuff there. This includes World Celebration, Moana’s Journey of Water, and Luminous: Symphony of Us, all of which will only be <6 months old as of May 2024. That’s still pretty new in the grand scheme of things!
Back at Magic Kingdom, the big addition for 2024 is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, but that definitely will not open this winter. At the earliest, it’ll debut during Summer 2024. For an overview of what else is on the horizon, see What’s New & Next at Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025.
January 2024 Disney World Crowd Calendar
When it comes to January 2024 crowd calendars for Walt Disney World, it’s a real roller coaster of a month. In true “holiday hangover” fashion, the beginning of the month tends to be pretty busy. As we’ll discuss in this section, crowd calendars also spike at other points in January, which is otherwise a fairly quiet month.
There’s a drop New Year’s Day, but not as precipitous of a drop as there used to be. Last year, the first week of January ended up being tied for the second worst week of the year for crowds. It was tied with Easter week, and behind only Christmas to NYE (albeit by a fairly wide margin).
There’s not a color-coded crowd calendar here because we are becoming increasingly averse to those. If we just had a visual crowd calendar graphic here, many of you would only look at that and not read the accompanying explanation that covers what you might actually expect.
We think such an approach would do readers a disservice, and we’d caution against over-reliance on any Walt Disney World crowd calendars. While they can be useful tools, crowd calendars are one piece of a larger puzzle. Choosing your travel dates solely on a crowd calendar is risky, as they’re less reliable than in the past. Walt Disney World can manipulate park reservations, staffing, closures, and capacity–the result of which is “feels like” crowds that do not reflect actual attendance or organic demand.
As a general matter, we want to warn you that winter is not the “sleepy off-season” at Walt Disney World. In Winter Is Not Off-Season at Walt Disney World, we explain how January and February crowds have grown since ~2017, and what to expect going forward.
There are a variety of times crowds spike during the first two months of the year. Everything from runDisney events to under the radar holiday weekends to school breaks push attendance and wait times even higher. With all of that in mind, here are our crowd calendar predictions for the best and worst weeks at Walt Disney World in January 2024…
The week beginning January 8, 2024 should be the lowest week for wait times, and also for crowds and congestion. That’s because it’ll be before Festival of the Arts starts, so EPCOT shouldn’t be as packed with locals for the start of that event.
During these days from January 8-12, our expectation is that crowd levels will be under 5/10 across the board. Offering more precise predictions is exceedingly difficult given inconsistencies with winter wait times the past several years.
Suffice to say, that should be a very good week to visit–one of the best in the first quarter of 2024. Crowd levels could end up being 1/10 to 3/10 for some parks and days. This just narrowly misses our list of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025. (That’s only because that list is quantitative and qualitative, and we favor visiting during EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts. It’d make the cut from a purely crowds perspective!)
Another good time to visit should be the last partial week of January 2024, leading into early February 2024. That week does make the aforementioned 10 best weeks of the year list. Last year, this same week had 4/10 crowd levels–we’re forecasting slightly lower levels in 2024, as attendance has trended down slightly year over year.
There are no holidays this particular week, and it has historically been a lull in attendance and wait times as compared to most weeks earlier in January and later in February. From a subjective perspective, this is our favorite week of winter. You might encounter ever-so-slightly higher crowd levels than the second week of the month, but EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts is not to be missed and the likelihood of nicer weather is higher.
If at all possible, we recommend avoiding through January 1-7, 2024 because many local schools are still on holiday break for those dates. It’ll actually get bad after the holiday weekend, as blockouts for most Floridian Annual Passholders are lifted on January 3 and that will result in a surge of guests on that date. Osceola County and Orange County schools do not go back into session until January 8, 2024. That’s a Tuesday, meaning Sunday and Monday could be surprisingly crowded.
There’s also the 2024 Walt Disney World Marathon that will occur from January 3-7, 2024. The main event for that is on January 7, but runners typically arrive early and enjoy the parks before the races rather than extending their stay into the following week. Typically, race participants are not in the park starting the Sunday of the main event (January 7, 2024). This year, that decrease could be offset by locals taking one last visit before school goes back into session on Tuesday.
Following that, the drop will be sharp and sudden–don’t be surprised if crowd levels go from 10/10 on January 8 to 3/10 only a couple of days later. It’s not completely like flipping a switch from peak to off-season…but it’s pretty close!
Another time to avoid is January 12-14, 2024. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. Day long weekend, and usually slightly spikes crowds.
However, it typically does not disproportionately impact the following Tuesday through Friday…or even the holiday itself. The biggest impact is usually Friday through Sunday, with those taking long weekend trips starting to head home on MLK Day itself. Being so close to Christmas and New Year’s, most people don’t get or take a full week off.
Even so, this is hardly bad by holiday weekend standards. Because it’s so close to Christmas and New Year’s, very few people travel for the MLK long weekend. It’s basically just locals who have the day off–and not all of them do. In the last few years, crowds have only spiked ever-so-slightly, and still been below average. They’re just a tad worse than the adjacent winter off-season dates.
We also want to draw your attention specifically to January 29, 2024 at Magic Kingdom. On this day, the park closes at 4:30 p.m., which is 4-5 hours earlier than it’ll close on adjacent dates. As a result of that, the vast majority of guests will avoid Magic Kingdom on that day. After all–why pay the same amount for 4-5 fewer hours, no fireworks, and no nighttime in the park?!
Which is exactly why we highly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom on that day, especially if you have Park Hopper tickets or the opportunity to return on another full operating day to see the fireworks. This will be one of the 5 least busy days of the entire year at Magic Kingdom, and you absolutely will not need Genie+ on that day. This is all doubly-true if park hours are extended and the opening time is moved forward to 8 a.m. (that hasn’t happened…yet).
As a result of this day being less busy, the adjacent days will also be busier. We’d probably avoid Tuesday at Magic Kingdom if at all possible.
On balance, our expectation is that crowd levels for January 2024 as a whole will once again be more similar to a normal year. The Walt Disney World Marathon will likely spike crowds early in the month. Then the Dance Team National Championship, a colossal youth cheer event held at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, will result in an influx of event attendees later in January 2024.
Speaking of the latter, there are actually several events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports throughout the winter and spring months, which makes sense–the weather is conducive to it this time of year and prohibitive from roughly April through November. These can have a major impact on resort room availability, as there are tons of attendees and they take up huge blocks at the All Stars, Coronado Springs, and a few other hotels. That, in turn, reduces inventory there and pushes other people to different hotels.
Long story short, a lot of hotels can sell out completely, causing planners to freak out that the parks are going to be chaotic and crowded. And they can be…sometimes. But there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that the majority of guests in the parks at any given moment always come from off-site. The second is that the youth groups are primarily participating in sporting events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. So to some extent, they are occupying rooms and displacing guests who would otherwise visit the parks.
To be sure, some of these youth events do have an impact on overall crowd levels in the parks. The bigger ones especially can have a material impact on the parks, especially if you visit the same park as their entire (or large portions of) their group attends. For the most part, though, it’s more localized. Meaning that if you have the misfortune of getting in line behind a huge group of cheerleaders, dancers, flag football players, etc., it can spike both the wait time for that particular attraction and feel unpleasant for various reasons (the same reason you probably wouldn’t want to be around hundreds of under-supervised pre-pubescent kids anywhere).
Another complicating factor would be that January is also the start of ‘summer’ vacation season for South America, namely Brazil. In a normal year, you’d encounter large South American tour groups in Walt Disney World. These tour groups typically don’t have a significant impact on crowd calendars, but could impact on the “feels like” crowds if you encounter them frequently.
It’s likely that international visitation numbers will rebound to some degree throughout the years to come. The extent to which that occurs really depends on whether the dollar weakens, and when that happens (thus far, it has not occurred). At present, international visitors are facing higher costs due to conversion rates–and that’s on top of all Walt Disney World’s price increases over the last three years.
January Pricing & Discounts
The silver lining to a January vacation is prices. Disney typically releases some room-only discounts for the general public, Annual Passholders, and Florida residents. While some of these deals are offered year-round, the difference in January is that rack rates are at their offseason levels for most nights in January, making these discounts in late January cheaper than the same offers in November or December.
Overall, January is a mixed bag at Walt Disney World. Once January 1 hits, I’m not interested in anything Christmas, and by the second week in January, the background music and decorations just feel awkward. If you go to Walt Disney World to escape the cold weather, this month might also not be for you. Florida in January can be surprisingly brutal, especially if you’re dressed for a tropical getaway. Plus, park hours are often short and crowd calendars spike at various points through mid-January.
The upside to a January visit is lower attendance later in the month, which also means lower prices. The cooler weather can also be very beneficial, and we’ll take January weather over summer heat and humidity any day. You might actually prefer the shorter hours, since it means getting everything done in a shorter timeframe. Festival of the Arts is also the best seasonal event of the year at EPCOT. In other words, there’s a lot to love about January–especially later in the month leading into early to mid-February, when the crowds are just as low, the weather is starting to improve, and there are no remnants of Christmas left lingering about.
Do you like Walt Disney World in January? Are you a fan of the holiday offerings after Christmas at Walt Disney World? Looking forward to Epcot’s Festival of the Arts or doing TRON Lightcycle Run? Do you agree or disagree with our advice or crowd calendar recommendations for January 2024? 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!