Walt Disney World has added more hours to the calendar through the week between Christmas and New Year’s, while also extending hours at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom for the start of the holiday season. This post covers the changes plus zig when they zag strategy for the parks and everything else you should know. (Updated November 20, 2023.)
We’ll start with the latest release of new operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours, and the current calendar now runs through January 30, 2024. Here are the hours for most of the newly-added dates during the holiday season:
Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 9 pm*
EPCOT: 9 am to 9:30 pm
Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm*
Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
Blizzard Beach: 10 am to 5 pm
Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)
As a reminder, Walt Disney World’s normal practice is to release boilerplate or placeholder hours before extending those based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections. This has been common practice for years, and will continue for the remainder of this year and, presumably, in 2024.
There are a few exceptions to the park hours above. First, Magic Kingdom closes on several nights per week at 6 pm to day guests for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December 2023. Those separately-ticketed events begin at 7 pm and runs until midnight and occur multiple nights per week.
Second, Magic Kingdom already has a published closing time of midnight on December 30, 2023. This is par for the course, and it’s because Walt Disney World’s castle park does two nights of NYE festivities. As for New Year’s Eve, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios all close at midnight on that night. See our Guide to New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World for everything you need to know. (Specifics will change slightly for this year, but the general ideas are the same.)
Similar to Magic Kingdom on MVMCP nights, Hollywood Studios closes at 8 pm on evenings when the Disney Jollywood Nights Christmas Party is held. That hard ticket event occurs with far less frequency than Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Finally, EPCOT is scheduled to close at 9 pm most nights between now and Thanksgiving. Once the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays starts on November 24, the park moves to a 9:30 pm closing time. If past precedent is any indication, we might get later closing times between now and then.
Here’s hoping that EPCOT also gets later closing times during the heart of the Christmas season. Not just because of Candlelight Processional and Festival of the Holidays, but also due to Disney100, the filling-in of the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit, and the debut of Luminous: The Symphony of Us. We strongly suspect that EPCOT is going to be getting a lot more popular come December 2023.
In addition to these newly added hours, Walt Disney World has also extended park hours in November and December 2023.
This is notable because these are not the same extensions that’ve been occurring since the start of the Party Season. (The difference is precisely why we’re doing a post about it!) In some cases, hours have been quietly cut back since the end of the summer season, and only fully extended during peak holiday weeks and weekends.
In the even more notable cases, we haven’t seen hours this long in a matter of years. Let’s dig into what’s been extended…
November 20, 2023: 8am to 12am (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 21, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
November 22, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
November 23, 2023: 8am to 12am (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 24, 2023: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 25, 2023: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 26, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
November 27, 2023: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 28, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
November 29, 2023: 9am to 10pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 30, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
December 1, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
December 2, 2023: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 3, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
December 4, 2023: 9am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 6, 2023: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 7, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
December 8, 2023: 8am to 6pm (previously 9am to 6pm)
December 9, 2023: 8am to 11pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
As you can see, there are now extensions through the week after Thanksgiving, up until December 9, 2023. You might be surprised or alarmed that Magic Kingdom still has 9am openings and 10/11pm closings in early December, but don’t be. Crowds tend to fall off a cliff after the holiday, which is why it’s Our Favorite Week of the Year at Walt Disney World.
Admittedly, we are surprised to see a 10pm closing the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, but only slightly. Weekends have been less busy this year, and between blockouts and higher hotel rates, it’s entirely possible that guests are leaving en masse on Black Friday. Walt Disney World likely has the hotel occupancy and attendance projections to support these hours. It’s not like they’re being cheap, either–the midnight closings through November suggest they’re serious about having ample capacity this holiday season!
Speaking of which, we want to call your attention is those midnight closing times in November. To the best of my recollection, this is the first time Magic Kingdom has closed this late on normal nights in the last 3 years. Now, we’re not going to pat them on the back too hard.
Disneyland closes at midnight regularly, and Magic Kingdom should absolutely be following suit. Especially during Party Season when crowd dynamics are disrupted! We nevertheless want to draw attention to it and give Disney positive reinforcement for doing the right thing. Now keep it up!
Then there are the extensions on days of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, with Magic Kingdom now opening at 8 am on those dates. Again, this is how it should be–and was for every single date of MVMCP last year.
As we’ve discussed countless times (and intimated above), Party Season operating hours cause chaos with crowds, pushing attendance much higher on the dates it’s not occurring and lower on the dates it is occurring. On event nights, Magic Kingdom closes to day guests at 6 pm. Again, we’d strongly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom during the day on MVMCP nights. This is something we’ve covered at length, again and again. (See Least Crowded Late 2023 Days at Magic Kingdom for dates that we recommend doing MK.)
One interesting thing we’re starting to see at Magic Kingdom is party-shortened days that have crowd levels of 2/10 instead of 1/10. We warned you that this would happen, and it’ll only get worse in November and December 2023. Two things are already happening to change the equation. First, crowd levels as a whole are increasing–they’re higher across the board already for fall break, meaning on party and non-party days. Second, party dates are becoming more frequent, making them more difficult to avoid. That means more guests will have no choice but to do Magic Kingdom on party days.
The upside, if you want to call it that, is that even more people will attempt to do Magic Kingdom on those rare non-party days, especially Saturdays. This means that the gap in wait times between party and non-party days will actually grow. (If this doesn’t make complete sense, the moral of the story is: DO MAGIC KINGDOM ON A PARTY DAY! Seriously, we’re imploring you.)
Ideally, you’ll have Park Hopper tickets and will be able to bounce to another park at around 4 pm. Animal Kingdom will always be your best option for lower-crowd evenings during the fall.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
November 20, 2023: 8:30am to 8pm (previously 9am to 8pm)
November 21, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 22, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 23, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 24, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
November 25, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 1, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 2, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 3, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 4, 2023: 8:30am to 8pm (previously 9am to 8pm)
December 5, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 6, 2023: 8:30am to 8pm (previously 9am to 8pm)
December 7, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 8, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
December 9, 2023: 8:30am to 9pm (previously 9am to 9pm)
Early Entry will once again officially start at 8 am on these dates; unofficially, it’ll begin even earlier. This is a really big deal. As we’ve mentioned countless times, the earlier that Early Entry starts, the better. There’s less “competition” and you can get way more done.
As for which date, that really depends upon whether you’ll stay at DHS all day. We’ve had a lot of reader questions about whether it’s savvy strategy to replicate the zig when they zag approach to Magic Kingdom during Party Season. Probably not.
Even though Jollywood Nights is brand-new and there isn’t precedent for it, there is for After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’ll almost certainly be the same idea here. With the park only closing one hour early on event nights (versus 3-4 hours for Magic Kingdom), not many guests are discouraged from doing DHS on those dates. Attendance might be a little lower, but not significantly so.
Conversely, there’s the event crowd that will arrive in the evening, and this will result in longer lines for headliner attractions at a time when they’d otherwise be really short. Not only that, but Fantasmic is only shown once (and at an earlier time) on Disney Jollywood Nights dates. By contrast, it has two performances–one of which is after park closing–on peak season dates.
So for me, the answer is obvious–I’m without a doubt doing and recommending Disney’s Hollywood Studios on dates when there are two performances of Fantasmic over days when Disney Jollywood Nights is happening after park closing.
The only exception to this would be if I were simply starting out at DHS and Park Hopping somewhere else. In that case, I’d begin at DHS on DJN dates in the hopes of ~10% smaller crowds. (With that said, I also would not adopt this strategy specifically for the sake of Park Hopping.)
November 20, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
November 21, 2023: 8:30am to 8pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
November 22, 2023: 8am to 8pm (previously 9am to 7pm) – Extended Evening Hours now 8pm to 10pm
November 23, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
November 24, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
November 25, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
November 26, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 1, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 2, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 3, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 4, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 5, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 6, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 7, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 8, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
December 9, 2023: 8am to 7pm (previously 9am to 7pm)
At the opposite end of the day, Animal Kingdom officially closes after nightfall for all of these days! Between the later closing and earlier sunset, you can get a couple hours in DAK after dark for the first time in a while. I don’t see Tree of Life Awakenings back on the schedule just yet–but if they’re not being shown already, that should start really soon. We highly recommend staying for evenings in DAK to enjoy the Tree of Life Awakenings, plus Pandora and the rest of the park after dark.
Our Animal Kingdom Afternoon Arrival Strategyis once again the ideal approach for this park. Even during the peak season–and the dates above will be busy–Genie+ is a waste of money at Animal Kingdom for at least the next month. Please don’t be fooled by the “bargain” pricing on Genie+ at Animal Kingdom. Remember, something is only a deal if you actually need it–otherwise, you’re just a hoarder. (Well, you can’t really hoard Lightning Lanes in the same sense…but you get the idea!)
No extensions for EPCOT (yet), but again, we’re hoping that the combination of Disney100, Festival of the Holidays, World Celebration, and Luminous: The Symphony of Us will result in 10pm closings and maybe even 8 or 8:30am openings. It’s really odd that Walt Disney World didn’t extend EPCOT’s hours for the first week of December 2023. Disney, it’s not too late to fix that mistake!
Since there are several instances of ‘recommend’ above, we want to make clear that all of the Christmas 2023 dates when hours have been extended are going to be busy. That’s precisely why they’re being extended in the first place! Our recommendations are for those who already have a trip planned, and are relative to other parks/dates within that time frame.
As always, the earlier opening times at Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom on party days make it easier to beat crowds at those parks. There’s a huge advantage to early risers, and savvy strategy or knowledge of how to leverage Genie+ and Lightning Lanes can be a gamechanger.
To that end, check out our Genie+ v. Savvy Strategy at Walt Disney World, which is the result of extensive ‘testing’ to determine the best and worst ways to beat the crowds. You can also do pretty well in the evenings at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios–and that’s somehow still true even now that Fantasmic is back. (It’s been a year…but maybe word still hasn’t fully gotten out?!)
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see how bad crowds end up being for the start of the holiday season. What we’re seeing here is a good start, but our hope is that Walt Disney World gets back to earlier openings and later closing times for the Christmas season.
We’re pleased to finally have the extensions. All in all, we’re optimistic about visiting Walt Disney World over the course of the next few months. Even though crowds are going to increase–and probably by a lot–Halloween and Christmas are our favorite times of the year in the parks and at the resorts!
What do you think of Walt Disney World’s operating hours for the rest of this month through late December 2023? Is this schedule is reasonable, or are more extensions needed to help absorb crowds? Do you think Magic Kingdom should be open from 8am until midnight on more days? What about earlier opening times at the other parks? What has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!