This October 2020 at Walt Disney World guide offers a free crowd calendar, when to visit, weather to avoid, new attraction openings & closures, info about Halloween, Epcot’s Food & Wine, and more. We also cover what’s happening at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. (Updated January 3, 2020.)
October is when we expect the crowds to start materializing for the fall, thanks to Halloween and other events. This makes it a stark contrast to September. Despite this, it’s still a good time to visit thanks to the weather and Halloween festivities, plus lower crowds than Christmas-time.
In the not-too-distant past, October was a “best kept secret” when it came to the best months to visit Walt Disney World. Temperate weather, low crowds, value season pricing, and seasonal events all made it a good time to visit. Add Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival to the mix and it’s easy to see why it was the favorite month to visit for many WDW fans.
Unfortunately, October crowds have ballooned at Walt Disney World. This is due to a combination of the secret getting out, people postponing summer vacations for better pricing, more schools having longer fall breaks, Walt Disney World doing more convention business, and other factors. Now, October is one of Walt Disney World’s busiest months of the year.
We recommend utilizing our 1-Day Disney Park Itineraries & Touring Plans to make the most of your October experience at Walt Disney World. These will help you avoid the crowds, but more importantly, save you time waiting in line (since crowds and wait times are not the same).
You can view day-by-day temperature and weather forecasts plus historical averages for Walt Disney World weather in October here. As you can see, average highs are still in the 80s every day of the month, so it’s not that much cooler…although those 60 degree lows can make a big difference.
October 2020 Special Events at WDW
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is offered many nights in October, which can be a good or bad thing depending upon how you look at it. In the “good” camp, this means more opportunities to get in the Halloween spirit and attend. In the “bad” camp, this means more 6 p.m. closings, which have to be carefully planned around on the days of your vacation that you aren’t attending the Halloween Party.
Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is also in high gear during the month of October. This event has expanded significantly in recent years, both in terms of popularity and what’s offered. There’s no two ways about it: Food & Wine Festival is expensive.
Yes, there are some free and low cost events, but just about everything at the event is costly, and at an elevated price even by Disney standards. Most people stick to the kiosks around World Showcase offering small snacks that are about $4-8 each, on average. That doesn’t seem like much, but costs add up quickly. Read our Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival Guide for what’s offered this year at the event, plus tips and tricks, and what we recommend doing (and not doing).
October is actually one of the bigger months of the year for special events at Walt Disney World. However, aside from the ones we’ve already mentioned, most won’t be of interest to anyone reading this. There are several events on the ESPN Wide World of Sports October Calendar, but those will only appeal to attendees (who should already know about them). At the end of the month, there’s the Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, which is their own weekend food and wine festival that compliments the one in Epcot (but is a standalone event).
OCTOBER 2020 REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS
In terms of attractions, consult our Walt Disney World Refurbishment Schedule to see what’s scheduled for October. That might be a bit deceptive, as there’s a lot of ongoing construction throughout Walt Disney World, and will be for the next several years. There are big construction projects at Magic Kingdom and Epcot won’t be finished until early 2021.
The construction project that will have the most noticeable impact on the guest experience is the massive reimagining at the front of Epcot, which will eliminate Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods. This has already kicked into high gear, and will continue to gain momentum in Summer 2020 with more work.
This unprecedented overhaul has led us to address the question Should You Visit Epcot in 2020 or 2021? in a dedicated post. For most people, the answer will be yes, but it’s still worth going in with a realistic view of just how bad construction will be.
On the plus side at Epcot, three new films, three new restaurants, and one blockbuster ride will debut prior to Fall 2020. The ride comes via a huge expansion to the France pavilion that includes the family-friendly trackless dark ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Barring a delay, it’ll be open well before October 2020.
Outside of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has two attractions that will still be fairly new come Fall 2020. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens this spring, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance debuted late last year. The latter is literally the best Walt Disney World attraction in decades–better than Avatar Flight of Passage.
OCTOBER 2020 DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR
A color-coded October 2020 crowd calendar for Walt Disney World at the top of this section would be reductionist and wouldn’t give you the full picture of Walt Disney World attendance trends. We promise that if you spend the ~5 minutes reading this section from beginning to end, you’ll be far better prepared to weave around October 2020 crowds. (So long as you have a Park Hopper!)
Unfortunately, crowd calendars are less reliable due to how Walt Disney World manipulates attendance patterns, staffing, closures, and ride capacity. Since Disney doesn’t release official attendance numbers, crowd calendars use things like school schedules, airport traffic statistics, hotel pricing & occupancy, etc., as proxies for crowds. For years, this approach worked and made crowd calendars reliable. Walt Disney World attendance followed an identifiable pattern that tracked with the aforementioned proxies.
For the last 2-3 years, wait times have no longer reliably reflect actual crowds due to the aforementioned manipulation. We can still forecast attendance, but not the resulting wait times. This is like the difference between the actual temperature and the “feels like” temperature, but with crowds. The “feels like” crowds are likely what you care about most, but Walt Disney World crowd calendars don’t always get those right. With that said, here are our crowd calendar predictions for the best and worst weeks at Walt Disney World in October 2020…
Suffice to say, October is no longer an off-season month at Walt Disney World. If someone is still advising you that October is a “quiet” month at Walt Disney World, ignore their advice, as they are offering outdated information. Now, October is consistently busy.
We’re talking an entire month of crowds that surpass the entirety of summer (which is now not nearly as busy as it used to be). On top of that, due to the month’s newfound popularity, discounts are much more difficult to find, making it more expensive than it used to be, as well.
The October 2020 crowd calendar starts fairly mild, with the week around October 4, 2020 being relatively moderate. The following week is significantly worse, which is due to Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, 2020 and people having time off from work and school being the primary cause.
Fall breaks are also common the next two weeks, leading to above average attendance on the October 2020 crowd calendar. Then there’s Halloween on October 31, 2020 to end the month coupled with early November 2020 events (including the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend beginning November 5, 2020) that will cause crowds bleeding into the end of October.
It’s worth noting that few days are 9/10 or 10/10 on the numerical October 2020 crowd calendar. Rather, most days are in the 7/10 or 8/10 range on the crowd calendar. However, it won’t feel like many days are “only” 7/10 on the crowd calendar if you get unlucky.
The problem with October is that there are roller coaster crowds throughout the day. This is primarily due to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the 2020 Epcot Food & Wine Festival (the dates of which Walt Disney World has yet to release). These will impact the October 2020 crowd calendar within some dates, but mostly at Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Epcot will be significantly more busy on weekends, especially when Florida colleges like UCF have away football games. Epcot’s attendance will be lightest on weekdays before 4 pm, with heavier crowds after work as locals turn out to graze at the Food & Wine booths.
Likewise, Magic Kingdom is leastbusy on days with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the evening and more busy on days that MNSSHP isn’t happening. This is because the Halloween Party is separately-ticketed, which causes Magic Kingdom closes early on MNSSHP nights. Many guests avoid Magic Kingdom on days with shorter hours, which means lighter crowds before the party.
These same guests then flock to non-party days in Magic Kingdom. Even though the park has longer hours on these days, you will get less done than you could before 4 pm on a party day. As such, avoid Saturdays in Magic Kingdom and any days that are in between two or more Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights.
If you have a Park Hopper ticket, we’d strongly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom during the day on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights, and then bouncing to another park at around 4 pm. Animal Kingdom will always be your best option for lower-crowd evenings during the fall.
Then there’s Disney Springs, the Crescent Lake resorts, and other high profile restaurants and bars at Walt Disney World, all of which are busier in the evenings during October. This is due to a surge in convention business, which peaks this month. Be sure to make ADRs for any fine dining outside the parks, and be aware that you’ll encounter heavier crowds in Disney Springs.
The above several paragraphs underscore why we don’t really care for traditional color-coded or numerical Walt Disney World crowd calendars. None of the above trends could be adequately conveyed by a simple graphic, and it’d be easy to become frustrated if we simply had an October 2020 crowd calendar with a ton of 7/10 or 8/10 days.
Instead, we’ve explained the how and why of October crowd flow, and now you can plan accordingly. While you’ll still encounter congestion and long waits, by zigging when others zag, you should avoid the worst of October’s crowds. This strategic park hopping advice is invaluable, and more useful than a numerical October crowd calendar.
OCTOBER 2020 PRICING & DISCOUNTS
Besides the events, October is a great month to visit in terms of what you’ll pay to visit. Single day ticket prices are entirely in the Value or Regular seasons, which means lower prices there. This doesn’t do you much good if you’re buying multi-day tickets, but those prices also tend to be average or below, as well.
There are also usually decent room-only discount offers, and we typically prefer this discount to the popular Free Disney Dining Plan promotion (which blocks out the entire month of October, anyway). If you’re booking a room-only discount, you can decide for yourself which hotel might be best by reading our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews.
Overall, October is a mixed bag. There are great events and the weather is starting to get nicer, but there has been a surge in crowds the last few Octobers, and we’d expect that trend to continue. Still, we really like October, and if it ever returns to being a normal month crowd-wise, it’d be among our absolute favorite times to visit Walt Disney World.
In fact, if you can get past the crowds, October is still a moderately good month to visit. The weather is improving, and the seasonal events are in full swing. Because of that, October still does reasonably well on our Best and Worst Months at Walt Disney World post. Keep in mind that park hours are often short in October, which compounds the impact of those larger crowds, too.
Are you a fan of visiting Walt Disney World in October? Have you experienced the heavier October crowds the last couple of years? Which month do you like to visit WDW? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!