Shorter Park Hours When Disney World Reopens
Walt Disney World has reduced park hours for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, with later openings and earlier closings between July and October 2020. In this post, we’ll cover the shorter hours, offer thoughts on special events, and why this is likely happening.
The obvious backdrop for this change is the announcement that Walt Disney World Will Officially Reopen Beginning in July 2020. As covered there, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will debut first, followed shortly thereafter by Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These changes to park hours correspond with those dates.
It feels odd to be doing a park hours update that covers a reduction of park hours; every month following the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was seeing regular extensions. Of course, nothing is normal right now. It’s not even remotely surprising that Walt Disney World is reducing park hours for the coming months given the circumstances…
In addition to park hours being condensed for July through October 2020, the calendar on DisneyWorld.com for June 2020 and all dates prior to July 11, 2020 has been removed entirely. Again, no surprise there given the official opening announcement. However, it is worth noting that this does not account for the soft opening preview periods, but we’re not expecting those to show up on the official public-facing calendar, anyway.
Let’s start with a look at the calendar of park hours for July 2020 at Walt Disney World:
For August, September, and October 2020, park hours follow the same pattern:
- Magic Kingdom – 9 am to 7 pm
- Animal Kingdom – 8 am to 6 pm
- Epcot – 11 am to 9 pm
- Hollywood Studios – 10 am to 8 pm
The schedule of morning and evening Extra Magic Hours has likewise been adjusted to match with the earlier closings or later openings. Additionally, the Early Morning Magic and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party hard ticket events both still appear on the calendar.
In the case of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the regular Magic Kingdom park closing time has actually been extended from 6 pm to 7 pm on event nights. This is an interesting change that raises a red (or at least yellow) flag. (More on that a bit later in the post.)
One thing we always note when it comes to the initial release of their monthly calendars is that it’s commonplace for Walt Disney World to release boilerplate hours prior to a final calendar. This practice was implemented following complaints about guests having to book Advance Dining Reservations when Walt Disney World hadn’t even set its calendar.
Normally, it’s a valid complaint. Walt Disney World expects guests to have their days planned half a year in advance, but the parks can’t be bothered to do the same? Of course, the new practice doesn’t really resolve that complaint. These template calendars are fairly predictable based upon previous years, and often the final hours differ significantly from what DisneyWorld.com initially posts. (But I digress.)
In this case, the boilerplate calendars are certainly more understandable as Walt Disney World leaders don’t know what operations or hours will look like in October 2020. This is a totally unprecedented situation, and like everyone else, Disney is figuring this out as they go.
Decisions are being made dynamically and on the fly, with Disney itself scrambling to strike the right balance. For proof of this, look no further than Walt Disney World suspending new ticket sales, hotel bookings, etc. a few hours after the reopening announcement was made.
With that said, at least for the month of July, these hours are probably more or less accurate as-is. The July 2020 calendar is similar to Shanghai Disneyland’s operating hours for its first few weeks, and is likely a byproduct of attendance caps and reduced demand.
It’s worth noting that at Shanghai Disneyland, even with reduced capacity on attractions, wait times have been minimal. Attractions are peaking below half their norms, which means that even with reduced hours guests can still accomplish as much or more than previously. That’s not to say the same will hold true at Walt Disney World, but it is one explanation. (Another obvious explanation is that Walt Disney World needs to reduce labor and operating expenses while the parks are running at a fraction of normal capacity.)
There are a number of variables at play that will influence the final park hours for late summer and fall. What will attendance have been like in July? What operational adjustments will need to be made based upon guest feedback and what works/doesn’t? Will any entertainment be able to resume? What about projections for fall hotel bookings and park ticket sales? Will safe capacity for the parks have increased? Is it feasible to host entertainment-heavy special events?
These are just some relevant considerations–there are undoubtedly more, and no one can answer these questions right now.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party still appearing on the calendar for August, September, and October 2020 dovetails with all of these questions. Bluntly, there is no way Walt Disney World can know today whether this event–which begins less than one month after Magic Kingdom reopens (yes, you read that correctly)–can be held in 2020.
On a normal night, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party requires an attendance cap. In recent years, this has been a major problem (we covered this in our Is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Too Crowded? post). It’ll be an even bigger issue in 2020. This is in part because of the event’s lineup, which consists of entertainment that is temporarily suspended. It’s also because the marquee entertainment occurs in quick succession in a guest-dense area of Magic Kingdom, where physical distancing is impossible.
Attendance would need to be capped significantly lower (at which point the party probably runs at a loss) or the event will need to be cancelled or restrictions on entertainment/crowds will need to be loosened by August. (Or a combination of the three–earlier dates could be cancelled, the attendance cap modestly lowered for mid-September through October, and some entertainment modified to get guests out of the Central Plaza.)
The presence of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Part on the August 2020 calendar should be indicative of what these fall hours represent: placeholders reflecting current intent that can still be heavily influenced by future events/circumstances changing.
It’s entirely possible that the normal park hours and events will remain totally unchanged between now and October 2020. It’s also possible they will change radically. As always, the closer the dates, the less likely there will be change. The more remote, the greater likelihood they’ll be modified.
That doesn’t make them accurate or inaccurate right now–basically, the fall hours are instructive, albeit inconclusive.
Editorializing a bit more, this could also be a matter of reseting guest expectations for the foreseeable future. It’s going to be a rough few months for Walt Disney World, and fully apprising potential visitors of the compromises they’ll have to make if visiting in the near future is a savvy move.
Judging by online reactions, a lot of people are still expecting the normal Disney experience in the midst of a pandemic, which is patently unreasonable. Walt Disney World needs to get people to cancel or adjust their patience, flexibility, and tolerance pretty quickly.
To the former point, Walt Disney World is no doubt bracing for a deluge of trip cancellations. That’s inevitable and unavoidable. It’s inarguably better for Disney to be up front in presenting the complete picture (or even worst case scenario) in terms of the modified guest experience. That way, people can make a fully informed decision to cancel or postpone prior to their trip, rather than showing up, complaining, and Disney having to issue nonstop guest recovery or concessions.
All of this goes well beyond park hours, but those do play an important role in presenting a sobering view of the limitations and requirements guests who choose to go during the first phase of reopening will encounter. On the flip side, this also offers a unique opportunity for Walt Disney World to underpromise and overdeliver. By being transparent in presenting the worst case scenario and reducing the potential audience on that basis, Walt Disney World can potentially provide a superior experience to those who accept the compromises. That’s digressing quite a bit from park hours–and something we plan on discussing in greater detail in the near future.
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!
Surprised by the reduced operating hours, or did you expect this? Will you be visiting Walt Disney World right away when the parks reopen in July or will you wait? Will shorter hours influence your decision to visit? Do you think Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will happen this year? A variety of viewpoints are welcomed here, but we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Additionally, please do not debate the efficacy of health safety policies—all such comments (for, against, otherwise) will be deleted. Those arguments are played out and isn’t the appropriate forum for that. (Saying you will or will not visit in light of certain measures is fine.)
Does anyone know how late the hotel pools are normally open? If we are going to have to leave the parks earlier than normal, then I would hope we would still be able to use hotel amenities such as the pool.
Cassandra, hotel feature pools will have reduced hours. Leisure (quiet) pools will be open 24 hours, with limited capacity and social distancing required, and no lifeguards.
I hope they have cut the price of a one day pass in half. That’s the least they should do.
If I’m traveling 13 hours and paying for the parks, I better be able to ride all of the rides that my kids would expect to. I understand the need to downsize but they need to compensate and make sure we can still at least SOMEWHAT get our moneys worth.
I’m not even thinking about a near term visit. Let’s see no fireworks, no theaters, no parades ,many things closed off and not available. 15 years dvc member and getting less and less on that program. Now I’m sure they will have a huge gate discount right? LOL. How about NO
The reduced hours are not that bad to me but the Hotels not opening is crazy. I would rather have them wait until everything can open than to open without hotels. The Floridians also use hotels so they will need a place to stay as well. I think they are being extremely cautious and it will hurt them in the end. Universal and sea world are opening in June so Disney is already over a month behind them.
I rented DVC points last year for an March trip which was rebooked to end of August. We were lucky the company we booked through was able to accommodate us. We will go at the end of August and make the best out of it. I do think, however, Disney must step up and do something to make up for lack of “experiences.”
We have a trip booked for Sept 25 – Oct. 4 and all the restaurant reservation plus tickets paid for to Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party. We really are unsure right now to reschedule for a later date or go. I have told my wife I think right now we need to wait and see what happens but I dont know whether we need to go then or not. I keep thinking that by the end of Sept we will have a better idea what the situation is, but thanks for all this info. I does help. For right now I think we are going to wait until after the parks open in July and see how things are going before making a decision on rescheduling.
I am wondering how they will rebook. I already have my trip planned for October 12, 2020. Staying at Coronado Springs. Now they are saying that hotel may not open. I have all my meals planned and was doing the Top Tier Dining Plan. It was a surprise birthday gift for my husband, which he still doesn’t know about. I’m wondering should I reschedule and if I cancel, how much more will I now have to pay?
Given the timing you might want to hold off. I’ve got DVC and in their case a lot of their policies only applies if THEY canceled. There is mention of preference for those who had cancellations. Personally I’d wait a bit longer and see how things settle during the reopening. Safe to say it is a fluid situation and most likely what we think today could be different two weeks from now.
How are the going to enforce mask wearing and social distancing in the parks when I have read on blogs that they can’t even go this at Disney springs?
I mean in places like palm beach county or the malls In Orlando where it is required people aren’t wearing masks or social distancing and businesses are not enforcing it only the Apple store which is a joke
I think people who go to Disney need to realize a few things
Your not going to be able to do twelve hours days much less four hours wearing a mask
Not ge able to go to multiple parks In one day and go to the park on a whim
I would be just happy going and also knowing that mask or face covering and social distancing is enforced and to start with parks only open to Florida residents so others who are asymptiomatic don’t spread the virus from other states
My only concern with the shorter hours is more heat within the hours posted! It will be challenging doing summer months with peak heat!
There are enough cases in Fl. to also create a problem. My reason for waiting till next year are the shortened hours, cancellation of some events (parade, meet and greet) and still charging full admission price for reduced activities.
Excellent article. I was thinking the same thing about expectations and how I felt Disney was basically saying to cancel your reservations if you are not willing to accept that you paid top dollar for a trip to Disney that will fall way short of the normal experience and standards. Some folks would , which is fine, most won’t, which is also fine. This way, expectations are reduced giving more room to exceed those and less of having to deal with folks that feel like they were promised and paid for something they did not get back. It’s kind of a Psychology 101 in Business Management lesson and everyone knows how good Disney is at that.
Mike, I think you got it right. Managing guest expectations and also surprising with some extra magic is something we’ve always appreciated about Disney. I think the recovery pace they are setting is deliberately slow in order to see how Universal fares with its quicker opening. It will be interesting to see how they progress. Tom’s personal visits tell us a lot about what is happening on the ground and this blog is one of the best ways to learn what Disney is actually doing versus what might be published or announced as a plan.
I agree with your assessment. Also, love the use of patently unreasonable.
My feelings on reading all the changes are that Disney is trying to tell people, the parks may not be for you right now. If you’re willing to adjust to all the changes, deal with the mask, accept the risk of contracting Covid, come on down. Everyone else, stay home (but book that trip for October 2021).
I’m a huge fan of knowing what to expect so Disney being quite blunt with all the changes and cancellations is greatly appreciated. I’ll be rebooking my October trip for October 2021.
Full price for reduced services. All they list are all the things you won’t get. Was year pass holder. Maybe sign up next year. Going to be public relations for them when people who do come realize how miserable they are with the heat and the mask. Stay safe.
Some food for thought. One of the first counties to open in California is closing again. The county’s public health official said they have a serious problem with an increase in virus numbers. Upon reopening, Sen. Brian Dahle, who represents the county, said (and I quote), “Let the people free”. And they did. Now they’re back to curbside pickup and delivery. Hopefully they will be able to contain the number of cases and more won’t get sick or die.
What does this have to do with Disney World you say. Everything. I keep thinking that’s why Disney set their reopening date for mid July and why they are making a half hearted effort to get things going again. I think it’s a stall tactic to see how Universal goes. If there is no increase in cases after Universal reopens, then Disney can improve their half hearted plan. If however the number of cases does increase, they don’t have to open at all. (Disclaimer: I have zero experience in the field of theme park reopenings, just a gut feeling).
I’m from New Orleans, LA, one of the hot spots in the country and also one of the areas “banned” from going to other states without a 2-week quarantine upon arrival. We opened up for dine-in at reduced capacity 17 days ago and our numbers are still steadily declining. For example, at one point we had 400+ new cases a day, and now it is under 25 new cases a day. That being said I think there are two sides to every coin and we can’t assume because one place failed at reopening another will as well. Also, while Disney and Universal have similarities I think Disney is on a much larger “stage” with their reopening. More people ready to pounce if Disney slips up, or ready to point a finger that they did something wrong/against guest’s best interest.
What are your thoughts on Dining reservations being stopped at this time? We have room reservations and tickets already purchased for December and were set to make dining reservations next week. I was thinking about it and wondered if that means there is a possibility that there will only be counter service meals for a time in order to comply with regulations.
We have rented DVC points and purchased park tickets for mid-November and had already made a few dining reservations and had been checking daily to see about getting others. Reading the notice on the Disney World website, I expect to get notice that our dining reservations have been cancelled at some point soon. They say that they will be moving from a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window. I expect they will operate in that way until at least the end of the year. So, based on that, unless things change, you should be able to make reservations for your December trip, but not until October. I am guessing you are probably correct about there being only counter service for at least some period of time, however, since we would already be within a 60-day window for days they are planning to be open in July.
I doubt it will only be counter service. You will have a virtual que and fewer tables and we’ll all get used to it eventually, somehow. After all, we are amazingly adaptable creatures.