January 2024 at Disney World: Crowd Calendar & Info

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.

Read our Winter Packing Tips for Disney post for more insight on what to take on your January Walt Disney World vacation.

January Special Events at Disney World

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 likely run from mid-January 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 (there’s more info about all of this in our Ultimate Walt Disney World Christmas Guide), and not really anything else.

However, this is largely 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. It’s unknown when the holiday decor will be uninstalled in January 2024, but our guess is the middle of the month.

January Refurbishments & New Attractions

In terms of other attractions that will be closed during January 2024, check the Walt Disney World Refurbishment Schedule. Just a heads up: that might be a bit deceptive in terms of actual construction work. There’s going to be a lot of ongoing construction throughout Walt Disney World, and will be for the next several years.

The construction project that will have the most noticeable impact on the guest experience is the massive reimagining at the front of Epcot. This is starting to look better, but the front of the park is still a sea of construction walls with a giant dirt pit in the middle. Hopefully that’s done by January 2024. Disney claims it will be, but we’re not holding our breath.

Speaking of which, Walt Disney World’s biggest addition to Epcot in decades is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Experiencing the new ride is a bit complicated, so be sure to check out our How to Ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind & Virtual Queue Speed Strategy to improve your chances of success for joining the free virtual queue. (Note: this virtual queue could be retired at some point before January 2024.)

Another alternative is buying line-skipping access via the Individual Lightning Lanes. Those posts explain each option, 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 will still be the newest major attraction at Walt Disney World, and will be less than a year old as of January 2024. See our Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for details, tips & tricks for success, and more.

For an overview of what’s on the horizon, see What’s New & Next at Walt Disney World in 2024 & Beyond.

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.

If your Walt Disney World vacation starts before the holiday season ends, we have a post discussing Visiting Walt Disney World at New Year’s that you might want to check out. Every day of your trip before New Year’s Day, you can expect some of the worst crowds of the year at Walt Disney World. There’s a drop New Year’s Day, but not as precipitous of a drop as there used to be.

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.

Another good time to visit should be the last partial week of January 2024, leading into early February 2024.

There are no holidays this 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.

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.

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.

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 year 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 year-plus.

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.

We prefer the room-only discounts to the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion, which is not likely to be offered for January 2024, anyway. Our Walt Disney World Discount Comparisons post covers why the room-only discount gets our vote over “free” dining. In this case, free isn’t always better, even though it is for many guests. If you’re booking a room-only discount, you can decide for yourself which hotel might be best by reading our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews.

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.

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!

Your Thoughts

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!

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