This guide to October 2021 at Walt Disney World offers a free crowd calendar covering when to visit & avoid, best weather, new attraction openings & closures, info about the 50th Anniversary, Halloween, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and more. We also cover what’s happening at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. (Updated August 5, 2021.)
October 2021 is when we expect the crowds to hit in full force due to Halloween and the World’s Most Magical Celebration (see our Guide to Walt Disney World’s 5th Anniversary). 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 on October 1, 2021.
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. That’s going to reach a crescendo in October 2021…
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).
October Weather at WDW
Weather at Walt Disney World continues to improve in October, with temperatures cooling even further from September, humidity dropping, and the tail end of hurricane and storm season concluding. Afternoon showers and torrential downpours are still possible, as is really hot and really cool weather, so remember to pack for a wide range of weather conditions.
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 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. That’s 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.
This is going to be a colossal event with a lot of special things happening during the 50th Anniversary. While it’s not only in October 2021, that’s the debut month, so there will be a lot of fanfare.
Unfortunately, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is not being held in 2021–we’re hoping it returns in 2022.
In its place, the new Disney After Hours Boo Bash Halloween Party will be held on select nights throughout October 2021. This limited-capacity separately ticketed event at Magic Kingdom features calvacades character greetings, shorter waits for attractions, and other entertainment.
Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival will also kick into high gear during the month of October, as “phase 2” of this event starts on October 1, 2021. Check out our Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival Guide for more tips and tricks for this event.
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.
With that said, there is still plenty of construction at Walt Disney World. The 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 unprecedented overhaul has led us to address the question Should You Visit Epcot in 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. This is a multi-year project that probably won’t be finished until 2023.
On the plus side at Epcot, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Harmonious will both debut on October 1, 2021. It’s also highly likely that Space 220 Restaurant will debut on or around that date.
Outside of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has two attractions that will still be fairly new come Fall 2021. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, both of which will be over a year old by that point, but are still very popular. The latter is literally the best Walt Disney World attraction in decades–better than Avatar Flight of Passage.
OCTOBER 2021 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 2021. 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…
Simply put, all of October 2021 is highly likely to be very busy. There will be “less busy” and “more busy” times within the month, but “low” or “moderate” crowd days are unlikely.
Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is going to draw many people to Florida. For longtime fans, it’ll be a can’t miss homecoming. For casual guests, it’s appealing because of everything new that’s debuting.
We do not yet know the degree to which the parks will be crowded. One thing that bodes well is Disney Park Pass calendars, which are green for October 2021 after the first weekend. This would seem to suggest that bookings are not too crazy yet.
However, it’s likely that Walt Disney World is back to full capacity for October. The reality is that most people don’t book theme park reservations months in advance and normally no park would ever hit its attendance cap in October. So few days being fully booked at this point isn’t convincing of much.
It is worth noting that accommodations for the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration and its first few months is booking up fast. Some hotels are already sold out (see What’s Up with Sold Out Hotels at Walt Disney World?) as are Disney Vacation Club accommodations (see Why Is Disney Vacation Club Availability So Limited?).
However, this is also not conclusive. Most guests visiting Walt Disney World on any given day stay off-site, and it wouldn’t be surprising if those making special trips for the 50th Anniversary are more inclined to stay on-site.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that we don’t have a clear picture of just how bad October 2021 crowds will be at Walt Disney World–no one does. Historical numbers and past precedent here are of almost no value given the significance of the milestone anniversary and everything new debuting with it.
We have every reason to believe crowds will be atrocious throughout October 2021–far worse than normal. What we don’t know is if that means every day will be a 10/10 on the crowd calendar with Park Pass reservations being fully booked (in which case, all days would be equally crowded).
Our expectation is that will not be the case. Instead, our prediction is that the first week is 10/10 for all parks, with crowds receding a bit after that but remaining extremely elevated on weekends when locals disproportionately have time off work.
Expect 10/10 levels at Magic Kingdom and Epcot every Friday through Sunday for the entirety of the month. Weekdays should be slightly better, as should Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. (Although DHS cannot handle crowds at all, so it probably won’t feel much better.)
One wildcard is that many guests are cancelling their Walt Disney World fall vacations due to Florida’s rising case numbers and the reinstated indoor mask rule (obviously, different people are cancelling for different reasons). We expect neither of these things to be relevant come October, but the damage is already done in terms of cancellations.
That could take the edge off crowds just enough that October falls into normal crowd patterns after the first week and on weekends. Basically, all of this is a long winded way of saying: “We really don’t know–it’s totally unpredictable. Prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised if that doesn’t end up being the case!”
With that in mind, here’s our normal analysis of October crowds, not modified for the unique dynamics of October 2021…
The second week of October is typically very busy due to Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11, 2021 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 crowd calendar. Then there’s Halloween on October 31, 2021 to end the month coupled with early November 2021 events (including the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend from November 4-7, 2021) that will cause crowds bleeding into the end of October.
In a normal year, few days are 10/10 on the numerical October 2021 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 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 Magic Kingdom’s Halloween events and the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
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.
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 2021 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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Are you a fan of visiting Walt Disney World in October? Are you excited for the World’s Most Magical Celebration and everything new debuting for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Or would you prefer nothing special or new, but lower crowds? 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!