This guide to October 2023 at Walt Disney World offers a free crowd calendar covering when to visit & avoid, best weather, new attraction openings & closures, Halloween, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and more. We also cover what’s happening at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
October is when fall crowds start accelerating due to it being the main month of Halloween, school fall breaks, plus conventions and other group events. This makes it a stark contrast to September. Despite this, it’s still a good time to visit thanks to the weather, festivities, and new attractions, entertainment, and nighttime spectaculars all debuting.
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. This ceased to be the case about a decade ago, as October became a favorite month to visit for many WDW fans.
Suffice to say, October crowds have ballooned at Walt Disney World in recent years. 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 Special Events
The big thing is Walt Disney World’s anniversary on October 1. Two years ago, that marked the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration, an 18 month special event featuring new rides, fireworks, shows, and entertainment at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and the resort hotels.
That will be over long before October 2023. While it’s possible that Walt Disney World will do something to celebrate Disney100, the 100th Anniversary of the entire company, it won’t be anything unique to October. The park anniversaries will not be celebrated in any meaningful way.
Magic Kingdom opens and closes earlier on Halloween party days. As discussed below, this causes roller coaster crowd conditions in the park that might seem counterintuitive. One of the best things you can do when planning is working around those events, as that’ll save you more time than anything else.
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 REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS
In terms of attractions, consult our Walt Disney World Refurbishment Schedule to see what’s scheduled for October. We expect minimal ride closures for maintenance due to the start of the 50th Anniversary and resulting crowds.
The construction project that will have the most noticeable impact on the guest experience is the massive reimagining at the front of Epcot. This is starting to look better, but the front of the park is still a sea of construction walls with a giant dirt pit in the middle. On the plus side, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Space 220 Restaurant, Creations Shop, Club Cool, Connections Cafe, and Harmonious all already having debuted in the last year.
Speaking of the front of Epcot, last year’s blockbuster addition is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Experiencing the new ride is a bit complicated, so be sure to check out our How to Ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind & Virtual Queue Speed Strategy to improve your chances of success for joining the free virtual queue. (Note: this virtual queue might be retired by some point in early 2023.)
Another alternative is buying line-skipping access via the Individual Lightning Lanes. Those posts explain each option, their pros & cons, and everything else you need to know. Suffice to say, do not just show up to EPCOT expecting to join the standby line–as there isn’t one.
Beyond that, there are several attractions that have not yet opened and likely won’t until Fall 2023 or later. These include the Play Pavilion and Moana’s Journey of Water at Epcot. TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster at Magic Kingdom will open earlier, in Spring 2023, so you’ll definitely be able to experience at least that during an October 2023 trip.
OCTOBER 2023 DISNEY WORLD CROWD CALENDAR
There’s no color-coded October crowd calendar for Walt Disney World at the top of this section because that would be reductionist and, frankly, totally useless and disingenuous for October 2023. It wouldn’t give you the full picture of Walt Disney World attendance trends or what to expect this fall.
Walt Disney World doesn’t release official attendance numbers, so 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 few 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…
October 2023 is likely to see moderate and above crowds throughout the entirety of the month. There will be “less busy” and “more busy” times within the month, but low crowd days are unlikely. It’ll be significantly busier than September 2023, which is always one of the slowest months of the year.
In a normal year, October would get progressively busier over the course of the month, starting at moderate levels (5/10 to 7/10) in the first week, spiking during the second, and again going to higher levels (8/10) towards Halloween. Larger crowds in October are due to conventions and other group events, fall breaks for various school districts, and other special events. In short, October 2023 will be a sharp contrast to September.
The second week of October will be very busy due to Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 9, 2023. This always catches visitors by surprise as people assume it’s not a major holiday–but it is when it comes to Walt Disney World trips.
In large part, this is due to that week being a common one for fall breaks. Many schools have days off during the next two weeks, leading to above average attendance in the middle of the October crowd calendar. Then there’s Halloween on October 31, 2023 to end the month coupled with early November 2023 events, such as the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend that will cause crowds bleeding into the end of October.
In a normal year, few days are 10/10 on the numerical October 2023 crowd calendar. Rather, most days are in the 7/10 or 8/10 range. However, it won’t feel like many days are “only” 7/10 on the crowd calendar if you get unlucky.
The other problem with October is that there are roller coaster crowds throughout the day and not all parks are equally busy. This is primarily due to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom and the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
On Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) nights, Magic Kingdom closes to regular ticket holders at 6 pm. Consequently, the park is less busy during the day time hours on dates when MNSSHP is held, and more busy on non-party days. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s because the party is separately-ticketed.
We’ve already seen this play out time and time again on the days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, as discussed in Magic Kingdom’s Third Slowest Day of the Year. The title pretty much says it all, but the photos in the post and commentary explains just how uncrowded Magic Kingdom has been during the daytime hours before MNSSHP.
Last year, Halloween party days have ranged from 1/10 to 3/10 on the crowd calendar.
In October 2023, our expectation is that MNSSHP days will follow that same pattern, and be around 2/10 to 4/10 in Magic Kingdom. While that’s higher than in August or September, it’s worth noting that nonparty days will also be much busier in Magic Kingdom. If anything, the spread between wait times on MNSSHP days versus non-party days will grow. Although Magic Kingdom closes earlier to regular guests on MNSSHP days, it also opens earlier. This is a huge advantage, as covered in Photo Report & Strategy: Magic Kingdom Early Entry at 7:30 am on Party Days.
Epcot will be significantly more busy on weekends, especially when Florida colleges like UCF have away football games. Although this does not impact attraction wait times, it does negatively impact atmosphere. There are times when World Showcase can have a frat party vibe on weekends, which is simply unpleasant.
Epcot’s attendance will be lightest on weekdays before 4 pm, with crowds growing after work as locals turn out to graze at the Food & Wine booths. Epcot is a much better experience Mondays through Thursdays. Saturday and Sunday should be avoided if at all possible.
Animal Kingdom will always be your best option for lower-crowd evenings during the fall.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios also has normal crowd dynamics in October. We are big fans of Park Hopping there for the second half of the day, catching Fantasmic or doing headliners with significantly shorter lines.
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 2023 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 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? Are you excited for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and everything new at Walt Disney World? Or would you prefer nothing special or new, but lower crowds? Have you experienced the heavier October crowds the last several 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!