More Disney World Weekend Extensions & Park Hours for December 2020
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…
More nighttime hours for December 2020 should not come as a huge surprise. Walt Disney World Announced Christmas Entertainment and some of that entertainment, most notably the Cinderella Castle Christmas projections, requires nighttime hours.
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.)
Moving along to the latest park hours additions, we first have new hours for all parks. The calendar was previously posted through December 5, 2020–now times are posted through December 12, 2020.
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!
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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!
Ok so I’m still confused- did they up capacity? Once the buckets were full last week how did they all of sudden they turn green again? Can you please clarify on if they have increased capacity since last week- thanks.
They need to add fast passes for November leading into thanksgiving week, and December holiday month. This is the safest way to mitigate the spread of virus, more important than masks or social distancing.
Happy customers are paying the same park ticket prices With less entertainment. At least give us schedules fast pass slots to calm the crowds.
Totally agree I can’t understand why they aren’t utilizing Fast Pass!
I also completely agree with this – we were visiting this past week and, though I could kind of see a difference in crowds between the weekdays and the weekend, the wait times were universally high. With FP+, we at least knew that we would have three rides with fairly low waits. On this trip, though, almost everything at the Magic Kingdom was over 30 minutes shortly after park opening. I imagine that December will be worse.
Tom, how would you say Friday crowds are in general? More on par with the weekend crowds? I would assume not as bad, but probably not as light as Mon-Thurs. I currently have a park pass for Magic Kingdom on Thursday, October 8th and for Animal Kingdom on Friday, October 9th but trying to decide if I should swap the days to take advantage of the longer hours in MK on Friday. But if crowds are going to be way heavier in MK on Friday, maybe not worth it? Thanks for any input!
Thanks for the update on the Dec hours, Tom. We’ll be there the second week.
The Governor of Florida is extremely irresponsible. Hopefully, Disney will not follow in the lack of precautions during a world pandemic. No amount of pixie dust can prevent the spread of a dangerous virus.
Ann Syme- I don’t think Disney is marching to the beat on any governors drum. Thus far, they have been overly cautious and continue to follow CDC guidance and protocols and are going above and beyond.
Off topic: I just heard they fired the GF orchestra. Do you think they’ll bring them back? I know they had been relocated to HS for now. This is crazy. One of the best things about the GF was the music, the atmosphere. Why are they doing that? Is it permanent???
I am so sad to hear this also! Loved the Society Orchestra. Was wonderful to sit and listen to after a busy day at the parks when we stayed at the GF last December. 🙁
Well y’all got what you wanted. You want it to feel like pre 2020. Enjoy your virus filled holidays.
Love the blog Tom! Thanks for the updates!!
With the extended hours on Oct 12, any recommendation on which parks to do on which days Oct 12-15? We are doing each park only one day. We are locked into HS on the 14th because of a Savi’s reservation and it being sold out other days. Right now we are doing: MK, EP, HS, and AK in that order… but I’m considering switching MK and AK with the thought being MK would be less crowded on the 15th without the holiday/extended hours. Thoughts?
Thank you so much for your input!! We are heading down from Washington state over the Columbus Day weekend since our Disneyland trip was a no go we switched it to Disney World feeling that the parks were safe with the protocols they have in place! We are now very nervous to go with DeSantis’s order! We will be eagerly awaiting your blog in the coming week!!
Josh, we will be there that week also and my planned park days were exactly the same as yours! However, when they added more availability I decided to switch the exact 2 days you suggested. So now we are AK, EP, HS and MK. I guess great minds think alike!
I am so glad they extended hours, but very disappointed they also increased capacity. Unless they increase ride capacity (open 2nd tracks etc. where possible) and/or offer other entertainment, I am concerned the wait times are going to be really bad. Oct 9-25 are the height of fall break crowds and will be a true test for Disney. They lured us in with the low crowds, low wait times, and discounted rooms, now they’ve quietly increased capacity more and more. They better deliver an enjoyable and safe experience or it could be a PR nightmare.
Thanks for the updates Tom, those of us with upcoming trips need all the up to date info we can get.
Are they going to extend the dining reservations beyond 60 days or offer Fast Pass again?
We have a trip in October With park days on the 16th-18th. We are doing HS Friday, AK Saturday and MK Sunday. We have dinner reservations at what was park closing at each park. As happy as it makes me that they may extend hours that weekend as well, it makes me second guess our dinner reservations as we will want to be doing rides, etc. Any advice?
Thanks for the update! My family will be at the parks mid October, right after Columbus Day. I’m a little anxious and trying to figure out how best to approach our schedule to minimize waits. We haven’t been to WDW since 2018 so this is a big trip for us. Anyway you can post a “temporary abnormal Plan” for all the parks? Advising people what order to do what rides? I usually have it planned all out but without Fast passes I’m kinda lost. Thanks so much!
Well it sure seems like we’re gonna need some fast passes for our week starting a week from today
Exactly what I was hoping would NOT happen
A sudden surge of crowds
Really the only reason we decided to book a trip was because of low crowds—that’s out the window now it seems
Same here! They offered discounted rooms to draw in the fall break crowds, and then after we booked they have quietly increased capacity more and more. They are going to have a lot of angry people if we are all stuck in hours long lines all week because they didn’t plan properly to handle the influx of the crowds they intentionally lured in.
We’ve changed our trip to the weekdays following Thanksgiving to minimize crowd size.
What are the chances they extend evening hours during the weekdays. Would be nice to experience the parks during those times.
Making the trek next week. Wondering between Hollywood Studios and AK Thursday and Friday. For some reason Hollywood Studios seemed less busy yesterday (Friday) with the extended hours even though a Friday. Any thoughts?
Tom-another excellent and informative post. Also as a fellow attorney I say the more words and analysis, the better Quick question re. first weekend in October. I currently have DHS booked Thurs., MK on Friday and Epcot Sat. (10 yr old bday quick trip-can’t avoid these weekend). Should I switch DHS and Epcot days for crowd purposes??
From Tom’s previous posts, yes, you should switch those two.
I kept being on the fence about going Columbus Day weekend and this is the nail in the coffin–they wouldn’t be extending hours if they weren’t anticipating higher crowds. Until fastpass returns, high wait times are a deal breaker–I do not want to be sharing air in an indoor queue for an hour with several hundred acquaintances nearby.
Don’t second-guess yourself, Tom. Your writing style (and undying love of Country Bears, Steak, and Muppets) is what keeps me coming back every day. I’ve got a trip coming up for November 6 – 10 so I’m anxiously awaiting updates and making adjustments to our plans based on your trip reports. Keep ’em coming!
Thanks. Your posts are very concise and I appreciate not having to search for the information in your articles.
Appreciate the kind words, but…really? (That’s an actual, non-rhetorical question to you or anyone.)
Sometimes I feel like I’m over-analyzing or explaining things to death when a “just the facts, ma’am” approach might be more warranted. However, when I opt for the latter, there are inevitably more reader questions, and I end up offering the same commentary in the comments.
I definitely agree. I feel like you very much give a “just the facts” approach when it’s what’s called for, even if it is analysis. If I wanted literally just facts I could go look on the Disney calendar.
Agreed. Came for the facts, stayed for the commentary.
I appreciate the honesty in your reviews, unlike some other blogs/vlogs who tend to sugar-coat their reports and pretend “everything is wonderful in Disney World!” I love enjoying the Disney magic but I also want to be able to avoid the pitfalls. I can tell you do your research and I trust your point of view. I know when I come here I’m going to get solid advice and a credible opinion. And of course the witty humor is the icing on the cake.
Tom, I don’t think your writing is concise at all. Ha! But I agree with you–it’s worth explaining in detail or some readers won’t fully understand and will slam you with questions.
I enjoy everything you write! 🙂 Keep it as-is!