Walt Disney World has announced that beginning this fall, resort hotel guests will be able to take advantage of free morning “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” starting at early as 6 a.m. in Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios–including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
The Extra, Extra Magic Hours benefit will include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as other experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom theme parks. Here’s the rundown:
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Daily from September 1 through November 2, 2019 the park will have Extra, Extra Magic Hours from 6-9 a.m., including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, plus Toy Story Land, and select other attractions.
From August 29 to 31, 2019, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open at 6 a.m. for all guests. There will not be Extra, Extra Magic Hours on those days.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Extra, Extra Magic Hours will happen daily August 29 to November 2, 2019, from 7-8 a.m., featuring Pandora – The World of Avatar and other attractions throughout the park (same as today’s morning Extra Magic Hours offerings).
- Magic Kingdom – Extra, Extra Magic Hours will happen daily from August 29 to November 2, 2019, from 7-8 a.m., featuring Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions (the same as today’s morning Extra Magic Hours offerings).
Extra Magic Hours will also continue to be available on select days at Epcot.
This is huge and unanticipated news. Well, at least the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom aspect of the announcement. We fully expected Disney’s Hollywood Studios to open super-early for the initial opening period of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but even then, we didn’t anticipate such a prolonged period of scheduled 6 a.m. openings.
For a while, we’ve been harping on the point that Star Wars Land will not draw guests away from the other lands or parks–it’ll draw more tourists to Walt Disney World, and those people aren’t going to just do Galaxy’s Edge. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats. If you had any lingering doubt about this “prediction,” the new Extra, Extra Magic Hours for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom should put that issue to bed.
May 6, 2019 Update: Lots of readers have asked about priority access for on-site guests opening day; unfortunately, I would not expect anything. Many guests will camp out overnight to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and from an operational/crowd-flow perspective, there’s really no good way to handle that aside from letting everyone in the park at once. (I’d expect the actual, unpublished opening to occur around ~5 a.m. to help deal with folks camped out, but that’s just a guess.)
Evening Extra Magic Hours that night (and thereafter) are a possibility, but I wouldn’t expect anything to be announced on that front right away. To be honest, I’m surprised Disney announced these hours before seeing how things went at Disneyland.
If you’re an on-site guest who doesn’t care about being among the “first” to experience opening day, I’d recommend visiting a different park August 29 and 30, and doing Disney’s Hollywood Studios on September 1 or thereafter. You will be at a huge advantage by virtue of waiting a couple of days.
The downside to these “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” is that Walt Disney World is doing this for a reason. Whether that’s because internal attendance projections are showing a tremendous surge in attendance or because they are simply anticipating heavy crowds (a third, totally different motive would be that this is a clever attempt to entice more people to stay on-site), there is a reason. Disney wouldn’t extend park hours to this degree “just because” or as a nice perk.
The upside is that this creates some exceptional opportunities for early-risers. We’ve taken advantage of extended Extra Magic Hours like this (albeit not as extreme) a few times, and the advantages they offer cannot be overstated. Super-early Extra Magic Hours is better than a paid hard ticket event in terms of efficiency.
We’ve done the ‘extended’ morning Extra Magic Hours for both Pandora – World or Avatar and Toy Story Land (read about our DHS experience here), and they are glorious. More recently, we did two rounds of 7 a.m. morning Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom for spring break and Easter, and that was likewise a wonderful experience. (Read about our ‘Before Sunrise in Magic Kingdom’ experience here.)
The reality is that most Walt Disney World hotel guests are on vacation, and waking up at ~4 a.m. to get ready and to a theme park by ~5:30 a.m. is simply not the ideal way of relaxing or is impossible due to kids. (In reality, you should probably arrive before 5:30 a.m.) Consequently, pretty much any opening time before 8 a.m. is always a joyous experience, with low crowds, pleasant weather, and minimal wait times.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is totally unprecedented and as a franchise, Star Wars has some absolutely diehard fans. Accordingly, we expect larger crowds for these super early morning hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and lines in Star Wars Land even right when the park opens. That’s just the likely reality.
However, 6 a.m. lines at Tower of Terror, or lines pretty much anywhere in Magic Kingdom (save for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) or Animal Kingdom (save for Pandora), are unlikely. Those who make the effort of rising early will almost certainly be handsomely rewarded, and will get more done between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. than will someone who arrives at 10 a.m. and stays until park closing. (That might sound like hyperbole, but it is absolutely not.)
The biggest losers here are off-site guests and those who don’t get up early. By the time 9 a.m. rolls around at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, wait times for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run should be at close to their peak for the day. That could be over 180 or even 240 minutes. Without FastPass.
The difference between waiting ~20 minutes for Smugglers Run at 6 a.m. and ~3 hours at 9 a.m. is probably alone enough to justify the cost premium of staying on-site. (While other quibbles still exist, this pretty much undercuts our entire ‘Is Walt Disney World’s On-Site Advantage Disappearing?‘ article.)
The other loser in all of this is Epcot, and this should really underscore a couple of things about the park. First, that expectations are much lower about demand for the park. (It’s the one park we think could have its attendance cannibalized a bit by the increased popularity of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.) This explains why the park is essentially being re-imagined–with more announcements to come–even if we don’t like some of the new direction for the park.
Second, even during the popular Food & Wine Festival, earlier opening times at Epcot are not “needed.” It’s been obvious for a while that festivals are what’s buoying Epcot attendance (just wander around “Diet Epcot” this summer for that on full display), and those booths don’t open until 11 a.m.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of upside in this for those guests who are visiting in September. As we covered in our updated-for-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge 2019 Walt Disney World Crowd Predictions: When to Go & Avoid, we still don’t think September is going to be as bad as many people are expecting.
We think this is being driven by the initial opening week plus demand from peak October travel dates driving this, along with expectations that this tremendous perk will help spike September hotel bookings. Moreover, we’d expect at least some of these Extra, Extra Magic Hours to be extended for November and December once those travel dates draw nearer.
There have been a lot of complaints from those who booked Walt Disney World trips for September or early October trips hoping to experience the ‘calm before the storm’ prior to the opening of Star Wars Land being announced. If you’re an early riser–or can force yourself to become one–we think this pretty much obviates all of that.
Visit the parks for those first few hours to experience minimal waits (and avoid oppressive heat!), go back to your hotel and nap by the pool for ~8 hours, then return to the park at night. You could conceivably only spend a few hours in the parks during daylight hours (hence all the night photos here) and still do more than normal. Maybe it’s just because I’m a morning person who detests midday sun and heat, but that sounds wonderful to me!
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how early to arrive to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition.
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