Walt Disney World has updated its calendar through December 12, 2020 for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios, and extended weekend hours through mid-October. In this post, we’ll share details, cover why this is happening, and offer commentary on what to expect going forward.
Let’s start with a brief recap of the park hours roller coaster, which began with Walt Disney World dramatically cutting fall hours up until Halloween. That was an unpopular decision among fans, and didn’t make a ton of sense in terms of guest demographics, but was nevertheless justified at the time by Walt Disney World’s abysmal attendance post-reopening.
Fast forward to last week when Walt Disney World Released Early December 2020 Park Hours, which reflected a continuation of the extended and shifted park hours previously released for Thanksgiving. Essentially, these gave Magic Kingdom and EPCOT more nighttime operating hours, undoing the prior cuts. Today’s new and newly-extended hours further this trend…
In part, more nighttime hours will come naturally even with Walt Disney World maintaining the same schedule, as the sunset occurs earlier in the fall and winter months. Plus, Daylight Saving Time ends on November 1, 2020 and that’s a full hour right there. (So long as efforts to “Lock the Clock” and skip the time change this year prove unsuccessful.)
The new dates reflect the same shift at EPCOT and extension at Magic Kingdom that were made for Thanksgiving and early December. With that said, we do not anticipate these being the “final” hours for all of November and December 2020.
Walt Disney World is back to its pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours that serve as a minimum baseline for what the ultimate hours will end up being. The only difference is that instead of releasing the template hours ~180 days in advance for full calendar months, they’re now doing it in weekly increments. Such is the nature of these uncertain times, I guess.
The inevitable extension for some of these dates is a double-edged sword. It will mean higher crowd levels for the holiday months, which is probably something few of you planning trips want to hear. Those salivating over the prospect of ‘ghost town’ parks after seeing photos from the summer should perish the thought–those days are over.
That’s the downside. The upside is that with each passing week, more and more returns to Walt Disney World–restaurants, snack stands, stores, entertainment, and so on. The next really big thing should be some stage shows.
The standoff between Disney and the union representing equity performers in stage shows (and more) ended over a month ago. We’re getting to the point where crowds in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will necessitate the comeback of some stage shows sooner rather than later.
On that note, Walt Disney World has once again extended park hours, with a longer schedule for all 4 parks the next two weekends in October. These extensions apply to Friday through Sunday on October 2-4, 2020 as well as the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend of October 9-12, 2020.
Unlike this weekend’s extension, which mirrors the ‘Shorter’ Reopening Walt Disney World Park Hours that were introduced back in July and used through Labor Day weekend, there are some wrinkles to this. Notably, Magic Kingdom is actually seeing its longest hours post-reopening on these two weekends.
For October 2-4, all four parks will push back their closing times. Magic Kingdom will now close at 7 pm instead of 6 pm. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will close at 8 pm rather than 7 pm.
EPCOT will close at 9 pm, which is actually a two hour extension from the current 7 pm closing times. (Restoring a two hour cut.) Animal Kingdom will open at 8 am from Friday through Sunday, which is an hour before its current 9 am opening. The park will also close at 6 pm, which is an hour later than weekdays right now.
It’s a similar story for October 9-12, 2020, but with a few twists. First, the extended hours also include Monday, since it’s a holiday weekend. Second, Magic Kingdom will be closing at 8 pm rather than 7 pm.
Finally, for some reason Disney’s Hollywood Studios has only had its hours extended to 7 pm rather than 8 pm. We suspect this was an oversight or an incremental adjustment pending more Disney Park Pass inventory being filled. Given that the holiday weekend will almost certainly be busier than the one before it, and DHS is the most crowded park right now, it makes sense for it to receive the 8 pm extension. I guess we shall see.
Speaking of Park Pass inventory, Walt Disney World quietly replenished availability for all 3 buckets of guest types and all 4 parks these same two weekends. It’s probably not a coincidence that park hours were extended on the same day that more Disney Park Pass inventory was released.
At least for the holiday weekend, this is not a reallocation. Some parks were previously unavailable across all three categories of guests, and are now available. As anyone who has gotten at least a C+ in second grade math should know, if you have zero apples in your bucket, you cannot give any apples to someone else.
For its part, Walt Disney World rejects this math, denying that park capacity has been increased. (No matter how many apples Disney might have, they can always find ways to sell more–usually in candied form, of the limited edition variety at a premium price point.)
I’m not sure what kind of semantics shenanigans Disney is pulling to deny that park capacity limits have been increased. I’ll state this differently to sidestep the denial: a higher number of guests are entering all four parks this month than in July or August. This is true even when comparing the ‘apples to apples’ dates that ran out of Park Pass inventory then and now.
Pent-up demand and pre-opening attendance projections have started to materialize, with Walt Disney World now experiencing growing crowds over the last few weeks. We covered this trend in last week’s Crowds Continue Rising at Walt Disney World commentary. We’ll have another update on that front soon.
Additionally, as we covered in our EPCOT ‘Crowd Contrast’ Update, it’s now resembling a normal ‘festival season’ in World Showcase, with sharp attendance upticks and higher ‘feels like’ levels of congestion on the weekends as compared to weekdays.
It’s likely that Walt Disney World will continue to extend weekend park hours going forward. The current crowd levels more than justify longer operating hours, and if Disney Park Pass inventory is any indication, this trend will not abate any time in the next two months.
If high crowds and longer waits are your paramount concern, we would recommend avoiding Walt Disney World on the weekends. While these extended hours might be alluring, the cost is dramatically elevated crowds as compared to weekdays in 3 of the parks. Wait times are over 40% higher on weekends, so the increase in operating hours by 10-20% is insufficient to offset that.
If your visit encompasses a weekend, our strong recommendation would be to do Disney’s Hollywood Studios at least one of those days (or skip the park entirely if Disney doesn’t do something soon to “fix” things). Since DHS is hitting capacity or coming close to it on weekdays as well as weekends, there is less of a pronounced difference among the days of the week.
EPCOT is the worst pick on weekends for the exact opposite reason. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are fairly comparable, but we’d probably take Animal Kingdom thanks solely to the 8 am opening time.
However, don’t fret if you do have a long weekend trip planned to Walt Disney World. We’re spending this weekend in the parks, including yesterday in Magic Kingdom (update on that soon). Thus far, crowds have been heavy but manageable if you properly strategize. Midday wait times have been bad and lines are lengthy, but it’s still entirely possible to beat the crowds.
Plus, being back in Magic Kingdom at night was awesome. Totally worth the elevated weekend crowds. We’re heading to EPCOT today and are likewise looking forward to a few hours strolling World Showcase after the sun goes down. As we’ve covered elsewhere, ‘feels like’ crowds have gotten bad on weekends at EPCOT, which now resembles a normal ‘festival season.’ Hopefully we can likewise find a way to skirt those and take advantage of the extended hours. We’ll report back on crowds soon, and keep you posted on more park hours updates!
What are your thoughts about the latest Walt Disney World calendar changes? Happy to see hours extended, or concerned about the accompanying crowds? Do you anticipate Walt Disney World will make additional extensions if demand picks up? Or will ‘fine tune’ operating hours—extending, reducing, or shifting as appropriate? Will you be visiting Walt Disney World in late 2020? Does this modified schedule influence your decision to visit this holiday season? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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!