Our guide to January 2023 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 runs from January 13 until February 20, 2023 at Walt Disney World. Read our Guide to the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts for more info and tips about this special event.
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 2023, but our guess is the middle of the month.
January Refurbishments & New Attractions
In terms of other attractions that will be closed during January 2023, 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. On the plus side, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Space 220 Restaurant, Creations Shop, Club Cool, and Connections Cafe are all open.
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 after January 9, 2023.)
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 next big addition to Walt Disney World: TRON Lightcycle Run. Walt Disney World has already revealed that this will debut in Spring 2023, but has not announced an official date. While it’s likely to open relatively early in the year, it will not debut in January. Unless Disney is using the Mayan calendar or something I’m not familiar with that considers January part of spring. (Highly doubtful.)
Beyond that, there are several attractions that have not yet opened and likely won’t until later in 2023. This includes Moana’s Journey of Water at Epcot, which is likely to open in the second half of the year according to Disney. (Judging by the current pace of work and the fact that it’s a water walk-through, it debuting in late summer is possible.) Other smaller scale additions are likely later in 2023. Nothing will open in January 2023–it’s unprecedented for Walt Disney World to debut new things during the winter off-season.
When it comes to January 2023 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 2023…
If we had to choose one week to visit Walt Disney World this month, it would be the week beginning January 9, 2023. Not only is this the lowest week for crowds, but it’s mostly before Festival of the Arts starts, so EPCOT shouldn’t be as packed with locals for the start of that event.
During these weekdays from January 9-13, 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 2023, if not the best. Crowd levels could end up being 1/10 to 3/10 for some parks and days. As of December 31, all of these dates are green on the Park Pass reservations calendar:
Another good time to visit should be the last partial week of January 2023, leading into early February 2023.
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. Nevertheless, we expect it to be slightly busier than the ‘sweet spot’ of January 9-13, 2023. Crowd levels are still likely to be under 5/10.
If at all possible, we recommend avoiding through January 1-4, 2023 because many local schools are still on holiday break for those dates. It’ll 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. Fortunately, Osceola County and Orange County schools go back into session by January 5, 2023, offering something of a reprieve for a couple days.
However, crowds won’t let up after that because the 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon will occur from January 4-8, 2023. The main event for that is on January 8, but runners typically arrive early and enjoy the parks before the races rather than extending their stay into the following week. That’s why January 9, 2023 is when things will actually start to relent.
The drop will be sharp and sudden–don’t be surprised if crowd levels go from 8/10 on January 7, 2023 to 3/10 only a couple of days later.
Another time to avoid is January 13-16, 2023. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. Day long weekend, and usually spikes crowds. However, it typically does not disproportionately impact the following Tuesday through Friday. Being so close to Christmas and New Year’s, most people don’t get or take a full week off.
Then there’s Lunar New Year, which will occur January 22, 2023. This is another holiday with a negligible impact on Walt Disney World–that results in a far greater spike at Disneyland. While it’s ideal to avoid these weekends, they’ll likely only be slight spikes, and shouldn’t see crowd levels higher than 6/10.
On balance, our expectation is that crowd levels for January 2023 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 2023.
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 2023. 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.
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 2023? 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!