Q: Should I take advantage of extra magic hours?
When it comes to perks of Extra Magic Hours- the jury is a bit split. There are many who believe that this on-site benefit should be avoided like the plague and others that consider it an absolute must-do. We’ll share the ins and outs of Extra Magic Hours so you can decide for yourself.
What are Extra Magic Hours? EMH’s are extended hours at the Disney World theme parks offered exclusively to those staying on-site. Each day one of Disney’s four theme parks may either open one hour early or stay open two hours later than their regularly scheduled operating times. This gives on-site guests the opportunity to enter the parks each morning before the heaving masses or to squeeze in the extra ride or two once the parks close to the general public at night. The schedule of parks doing Extra Magic Hours can vary so guests are encouraged to check My Disney Experience prior to your visit to find out when they’ll be held during your stay.
Guests hoping to gain admission during these periods must have a MagicBand with a linked hotel reservation in order enter the parks.
Are all of the attractions open during these extra hours? No. Not all of Disney’s attractions will open early for Extra Magic Hours or stay open late. There are often a few that are left out of the mix. Here’s a look at attractions that are usually CLOSED during these times.
- Magic Kingdom: Big Thunder Mountain, Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Swiss Family Treehouse, and Tomorrowland People Mover are some of the attractions that may be closed during Extra Magic Hours.
- Hollywood Studios: Great Movie Ride and Voyage of the Little Mermaid have been excluded in the past. Shows like the Frozen Singalong and Indiana Jones won’t hold their first performances until after the park has opened.
- Epcot: The majority of attractions in the World Showcase (with the exception of the Frozen Ever After) will remain closed until the Showcase officially opens at 11am each morning. This includes American Adventure, Grand Fiesta, and O’ Canada. Future World attractions that may not open early/stay open late are, Journey Into the Imagination with Figment, Mission Space, and Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom only offers Extra Magic Hours in the morning. Currently the majority of headlining attractions are usually open as part of this perk. However guests should note that Kali River Rapids will not longer be operating during Extra Magic Hours. In addition, Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical won’t start their first performances until after the park is open.
This sounds like a fantastic perk. Are there any downsides? Yes. Regular visitors to Walt Disney World believe that Extra Magic Hours, are a pretty good way to determine what parks should be avoided on each day. The reason is that Extra Magic Hours are so popular with onsite guests that the park holding them in the morning is guaranteed to have very high crowd levels and the longest lines. However, before you write them off completely, each theme park is different when it comes to EMH’s. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect at each park:
- Magic Kingdom: This theme park typically offers morning Extra Magic Hours (8am – 9pm) and evening hours (where the park stays open until at least 12am) once a week. Being that the Magic Kingdom is typically the busiest theme park anyway, having the added incentive of the extra hour in the morning is often enough to tip the balance and make it very busy on the days where a morning EMH is being offered. For this reason, avid Disney planners tend to give it a miss.
That being said, the evening Magic Hours are in my opinion one of the best times to visit Magic Kingdom. Many families with small children obviously don’t have the stamina to enjoy attractions nearer to dinner time so the park really starts to thin out This means a lot of extra ride time for families that stick it out. One of the best times I’ve ever had at Disney was hanging out with my 6 year old at the Magic Kingdom after hours! If we know we’re going to be doing Magic Kingdom late at night we usually spend our mornings at the pool, followed by a big siesta before heading out. On EMH nights, even if you don’t hit the parks until 5pm, you’re still getting a whopping 8 hours of park time if you stay til 1am!
- Animal Kingdom: If there’s one park where Extra Magic Hours don’t disrupt the flow too much, it’s probably Animal Kingdom. Crowds are typically lower here than at other parks so the additional visitors during that extra hour in the morning may not be noticeable. For this reason, you can actually accomplish quite a lot in that first hour. It’s the only time I’ve ever ridden Expedition Everest, jumped off and then got right back in line with waits under 20 minutes. If you plow on through the morning it means that you can experience many of the headlining attractions by lunch time.
- Hollywood Studios: Hollywood Studios is not a favorite of mine when it comes to morning or evening Extra Magic Hours. With the construction going on at the park just now (to make way for more Star Wars and Pixar attractions), there are a small amount of headlining attractions open early for visitors to enjoy. This means that the influx of people there for Magic Hours will either head to Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster which inevitably means longer lines at each! Hollywood Studios’ compact size these days means you can get everything you want to see in during a normal day at the parks. So EMH’s here, are in my opinion, just not worth it.
- Epcot: This park typically offers one early morning and one late evening each week. I’ve experienced the larger crowds that EMH’s bring to Epcot in the morning and it wasn’t pleasant. Similarly to Hollywood Studios, there’s only a handful of attractions that people flock to and those get slammed (namely Test Track, Soarin’ and now Frozen Ever After). Using a Fastpass or two for those attractions later in the day and spending that extra hour doing attractions like Spaceship Earth, Circle of Life, Living with the Land etc. is a good way of steering clear of heavy crowds. For evening hours, Epcot tends to have a more adult crowd, which means the main attractions will continue to be busy well into the evening.
Still not sure whether Extra Magic Hours are for you? Here’s a few additional tips you may want to consider:
- Only go to the morning Extra Magic Hours if you are actually able to get to the parks when they open. Showing up to a park 20-30 minutes after the Extra Magic Hours have started means that crowds will already be high and lines longer, taking any real value away from getting there early.
- Extra Magic Hours work well with Park Hopper tickets – If you want to visit the parks for that extra hour in the morning, take advantage of the EMH but then hop to another less busy park when crowds start to pick up. You get the best of both worlds.
- Really want to avoid the crowds? A strategy that a lot of pro Disney planners use is to find the park doing the morning Extra Magic Hours and deliberately go somewhere else. Its one way to guarantee that you won’t be at the busiest park each day.
- Evening is best when it comes to Magic Kingdom – but if you’ve got children don’t try and tough it out from 9am- 1am. Take a mid afternoon break or enjoy a morning by the pool and don’t hit the park until later.
The only way to truly know whether Extra Magic Hours are going to work for your family is to give them a try. Get an early morning start during one day of your trip or linger into the evening hours and see how you get on.
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