December 2013 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar

by josh on May 22, 2013

12/20/13 Update: Magic Kingdom close extended to 2am on December 31.

11/21/13 Update: Crowd calendar updated with the changes listed here.

11/9/13 Update: Hollywood Studios’ hours cut to 9am – 6pm on Wednesday December 11th and Fantasmic canceled.

This is the Free December 2013 Disney World Crowd Calendar that shows the Recommended Parks to Visit, Overall Crowd Level Estimation, Cost, Historic High/Low Temperature, Historic Chance of Precipitation, Extra Magic Hours Schedule, Fantasmic Show Times, Holidays, and Special Events.

Make sure you first read my month-by-month overview of visiting Disney World, located here. The overview will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost, crowds, weather, and special events on a broader scale. Once you figure out when you would like to visit, you can move on to this more detailed look.

Here’s a quick explanation of how to read the calendar and what the numbers mean. It may seem like it’s a little long, but you’ll only need to read the explanation once.

  • The first line in each box is the date.
  • The second line shows the cost to book a room at a Disney-owned resort. $ = Value Season, $$ = Regular Season, $$$ = Summer Season, $$$$ = Peak Season, and $$$$$ = Holiday Season. Occasionally there will be a + or – after the $$$ to show that the cost is slightly higher or lower than usual, but not by enough to raise it another $ notch.
  • The third line is the average high and low temperature and the chance of precipitation. All data is based on the last 15 years. I wouldn’t read too much into the precipitation percentages for each day because just one or two additional days of rain in the last 15 years can raise the percentage substantially. I included it so you can look at the precipitation trends throughout the month(s) and take it into consideration when deciding when to book your vacation. For a broader overview of the month, read the month-by-month overview I linked to above.
  • The fourth line is an estimation of the overall crowd level. A “5″ refers to average crowds. Numbers above 5 refer to a larger than average overall crowd level and numbers below 5 refer to lower than average overall crowds. A day with an overall crowd level of “1″ means that the crowds are expected to be the absolute lowest of the year and a “10″ means crowds are expected to be at their largest of the year. In other words, the overall crowd level estimation will give you an idea of how many people are in the entire Disney World complex, including the four major theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney, golf courses, resorts, etc. Individual theme parks can have smaller or larger crowds than the overall estimation, which is where the theme park recommendations come in.
  • The fifth line shows the theme parks I recommend visiting in green and the theme parks I recommend avoiding in red. There is also a | sign that splits up the recommended and not recommended Parks for the color blind or those printing in black and white (the Parks to the left of the | sign are recommended). I use the usual abbreviations for the Parks; AK is the Animal Kingdom, EP is Epcot, HS is Hollywood Studios, and MK is the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the colors, the Park on the far left is the most recommended Park to visit that day. The Park second to the left is the second most recommended and so on. For example, if the line reads AK EP | HS MK then the Animal Kingdom is the most recommended and Epcot is the second most recommended. On the other side of the | sign, Hollywood Studios is not recommended and the Magic Kingdom is expressly not recommended even more. If possible, I would strongly recommend you visit the Park that is most recommended each day. Please read below the calendar for an overview of how I’ve selected the recommended Parks and also a day-by-day explanation.
  • The sixth line lists which Parks have Extra Magic Hours and at what time they start. Morning Extra Magic Hour lasts one hour and usually starts at 8am. Evening Extra Magic Hours last three hours from the start time. For example, if you see AK:8am EP:9pm, that means the Animal Kingdom has a morning Extra Magic Hour from 8am-9am and Epcot has evening Extra Magic Hours from 9pm-12am.
  • The seventh line lists the Fantasmic show times at the Hollywood Studios.
  • The eighth line lists the start time of Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP:) and Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom(W:). For example, if you see, MSEP: 9pm & 11pm W: 10pm, it would mean that Main Street Electrical Parade begins at 9pm and 11pm and Wishes begins at 10pm.

The Calendar is also available in an easy to view and print PDF file, Here.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Sunday December 1

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 8pm – 10pm

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended.  Hollywood Studios will be crowded with evening Extra Magic Hours and the two Fantasic shows.  Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Animal Kingdom tomorrow or Wednesday for morning Extra Magic Hour. With the longer-than-usual operating hours, you should be able to do just about everything the Park has to offer if you arrive close to Park opening.  Focus on riding Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as early as possible or rely on FASTPASS later in the day (or both).  After getting those out of the way, move on to DinoLand USA or one of the more popular shows – either Finding Nemo the Musical or Festival of the Lion King and you’ll be set for the rest of the day.  Keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and 5pm – 7pm will have shorter waits than the afternoon. Visit DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to find the shortest waits possible. Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Jungle Treks will close earlier than 7pm. Check your Times Guide to verify.  You also have a great opportunity to Park Hop after the Park closes.  You could head to Epcot for dinner and IllumiNations or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic.  Without Park Hopper, consider transferring to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner and a look around the resort or take a trip out to Downtown Disney or the BoardWalk for dinner and shopping.

Epcot is recommended if you need a day there.  Hollywood Studios will be attracting a lot of people for Fantasmic and evening Extra Magic Hours.  The only downside to visiting Epcot is the fact that Magic Kingdom isn’t going to be popular with short hours and lack of evening entertainment.  I’m looking towards tomorrow as a better day to visit Epcot, though today is also above average.  You will have the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day plan.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, Illuminations, and the Candlelight Processional.  Most people will want to take advantage of the lower crowds at Magic Kingdom and put off Epcot for tomorrow.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests and the addition of a second Fantasmic.  The short hours at Magic Kingdom will also cause a lot of people to look elsewhere and they’ll find the Studios’ longer hours of operation and plentiful evening entertainment to be extremely attractive.  The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase around 11am as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  Because of that, there’s really no reason to head in that direction today.  Plus, there are only a few attractions open during evening Extra Magic Hours and the waits for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours will likely be just as long as they were during the day until after 9:30pm when people begin to give up and exit.  Fantasmic also dumps 9,000+ people on Sunset Boulevard at 7pm and again at 8:30pm, which is right next to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  Guess where most of those people will be headed?  If you’re staying for evening Extra Magic Hours, your best bet is always to save these headlining attractions for the very end of the night and visit Toy Story Mania last.  Still, the Studios is going to be swamped, relatively speaking, and tomorrow or Wednesday would be much better days to visit.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  The short hours and lack of evening entertainment will cause a lot of casual vacationers to head elsewhere.  We’re in between yesterday’s very popular longer hours of operation/both nighttime spectaculars and have a similar schedule tomorrow with evening Extra Magic Hours attached.  On top of that, Sunday is a major travel day for those on a standard weeklong Disney vacation.  With the early close, virtually none of them will start out with an abbreviated day at Magic Kingdom.  Few people that arrived on Saturday will also visit a theme park with a seemingly short day and no nighttime spectaculars.  Tomorrow will also be significantly more crowded.  If you’re looking to visit Magic Kingdom over two days, then you may want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date and another day where you can enjoy the nighttime spectaculars.  This coming Wednesday would be the least crowded day to take in the Electrical Parade and Wishes as well as enjoy the Magic Kingdom as it gets dark.  If you’re planning just one day at Magic Kingdom, then you’ll need to weigh whether you’re willing to put up with heavier crowds in order to enjoy both nighttime spectaculars.  While the 7pm close may seem a bit truncated, I can assure you that ten hours is a long time to spend in a theme park.  If you arrive by 8:40am, you’ll be able to accomplish an amazing number of attractions in a short period of time if you head straight for Fantasyland or other important attractions, use FASTPASSes throughout the day, and visit the less popular attractions in the afternoon.  Crowds will only diminish from 4pm to 6pm as people leave for dining reservations and other activities.  Around 6pm you will begin to see an influx of people arriving for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but they tend to congregate on Main Street waiting for their Party to begin, rather than heading for the attractions.  Stay through 7pm because wait times will only decrease from their afternoon highs as it gets closer to 7pm.  One thing about staying through 7pm is that at exactly 7pm (and possibly a couple of minutes before), the special characters will begin appearing for the Party.  If you’re not planning to do the Party and have kids, you may want to leave around 6:30pm.  Otherwise, your children may encounter a bunch of characters that they won’t be allowed to visit because you must have a Party bracelet to get in line.  There are no exceptions.  Other than those minor inconveniences, this is going to be one of the two least crowded days of the week at Magic Kingdom.  If short lines are a priority, today and Friday are the best days to visit.

Monday December 2

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 11pm – 1am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm and 10pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom will be moderately more popular than recommended days due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests.  Mondays at the Animal Kingdom aren’t wildly popular because of the fact that morning Extra Magic Hours aren’t as popular as evening Extra Magic Hours and because it’s early in the week and many people who travel over the weekend will be heading to the Magic Kingdom regardless of the Extra Magic Hours schedule.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour is an excellent time to tour, it’s difficult to get out to the Animal Kingdom by 7:45am to take full advantage of it.  If you’re staying at a Monorail Deluxe Resort, you’re looking at a 20+ minute drive to the Animal Kingdom, plus time for the bus to arrive – not to mention getting multiple people up and ready early in the morning with just one shower and limited space.  At 6:30am.  Or earlier.  If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll arrive by 7:45am, then you can have a lot of success because the crowd level won’t be that high, but it will be busier in the afternoon than other recommended days this week due to a higher number of Disney resort guests than usual.  You’re much better served holding off until Tuesday or Friday if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later.

Epcot is highly recommended.  It would be the “best Park” if not for the complications regarding Hollywood Studios and Fantasmic.  It’s an excellent choice.  With no special events, Extra Magic Hours, or special evening entertainment, there’s nothing to draw people toward Epcot today.  Most Disney resort guests will hold off until tomorrow for morning Extra Magic Hour and we have a lot of people headed to Magic Kingdom for evening Extra Magic Hours and Main Street Electrical Parade.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow one of the compartmentalized two-day touring plans.  To stay ahead of the crowds for as long as possible, move up to the World Showcase beginning at 11am with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Once you get through Gran Fiesta Tour and Maelstrom, you shouldn’t run into any appreciable waits at the other World Showcase Pavilions.  If you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm to visit any non-headlining attractions.  Most people will have moved up through World Showcase by this time, decreasing crowds and waits.  If you’d like to ride Soarin’ and Test Track again in the afternoon or evening, plan to rely on FASTPASS.  Check your Times Guide to see which Future World attractions remain open past 7pm – it’s usually only Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot. and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  Finally, it’ an excellent day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.  For the Candlelight Processional, consider the Dining Package which guarantees a seat if you’re planning a big meal.  For lunch, Biergarten is a good, less expensive choice.  Without the Package, be prepared to arrive 60 to 120 minutes before the start of the show.  The first show of the day is usually the least crowded.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  We’re coming off two popular days in a row at the Studios due to the Extra Magic Hours that attract the predictable Disney resort contingent.  To have success, you’ll still want to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.  Because Toy Story Mania has such a limited capacity, wait times are almost always 60+ minutes in the afternoon and FASTPASSes that are in limited supply, even when the overall crowd level is low and Hollywood Studios is recommended.  You’ll want to make it your top priority.  Your second priority is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which also sees long afternoon waits and FASTPASSes in short supply.  Tower of Terror and Star Tours should be easier to ride, but also remain priorities.  If you can get these attractions done in the early morning, you’ll be in great shape for the rest of the day.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story, Phineas and Ferb, or Sorcerer Mickey characters.  In addition, characters appear at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat in the early morning that won’t appear during any other part of the day.  Usually, Minnie, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Piglet, and Tigger appear, but no specific characters are guaranteed.  The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule.  The Osborne Lights are turned on between 6pm and 6:15pm in the middle of the Streets of America.  Arrive by 5:55pm and head toward the small stage set up with the tree in the back for the best view.  The Lights are kept on for an hour after the Park officially closes.  Arrive about ten minutes before close and hang out as long as you like to experience the Lights with the fewest number of people around.  For Fantasmic, consider the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater.  You’ll still need to arrive at least 30 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package.  It makes the most sense on the Disney Dining Plan because it only costs one table service credit (except at Hollywood Brown Derby, which still costs two as it would otherwise) and includes the appetizer.  As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the middle sections, but be prepared to arrive an hour early for those seats.  Any closer and you run the risk of getting wet and it’s more difficult to see what’s happening on the water.  Overall, it’s one of the two best days of the week to visit the Studios and see Fantasmic, but you’ll still want to arrive early and tour efficiently to have the most success.  This Wednesday is also recommended if you have other plans.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busy today.  Mondays are usually the second busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom, second to only Saturdays, for a variety of reasons.  First, a lot of people travel over the weekend and visit Magic Kingdom on their first full day.  In most instances, that day is Monday.  Second, Mondays often feature longer hours, Wishes Fireworks, and Main Street Electrical Parade, when other days during the week have shorter operating hours and don’t offer the Electrical Parade.  Anyone who wants to see the evening entertainment will have to visit on a day when it’s offered, like most Saturdays and Mondays.  Finally, we have evening Extra Magic Hours, which will attract the majority of Disney resort guests (not that they really needed another reason to head here anyway).  While this Saturday should prove to be busier, today is going to be a close second.  You could have success in the morning from 9am to 11am or so and in the evening from 10:30pm through close, but you’re much better off waiting until a recommended day later in the week.  Tuesday and Friday would be best.  Wednesday will be the best day this week to see Wishes and Main Street Electrical Parade and Tuesday and Friday will be substantially less crowded overall.  If you are headed to Magic Kingdom, despite these warnings, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for Fantasyland or the headlining Mountain rides.  You’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit in the first two hours, but crowds will be heavy from 11am until around 10pm.  You’ll either want to take an afternoon break when crowds are at their heaviest or move on to the less popular attractions.  After your break, return to Magic Kingdom in the evening for dinner, the nighttime shows, and Extra Magic Hours.  If you are staying for Extra Magic Hours, begin in Adventureland because most people will head to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland first.  Next, move up through Frontierland and Liberty Square on your way to Tomorrowland.  Save Fantasyland for last because most families will have left by 11:30m and Fantasyland will be low on crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the second Parade.  Both locations offer a great view and will be substantially less crowded than Main Street.  Even so, it will likely be necessary to find your spots about 20 minutes early or you risk being a few rows back.

Tuesday December 3

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Magic Kingdom.  We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it.  It’s also early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week.  Overall, today and Friday are the two best days of the week to visit.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows and potentially the more popular characters.  Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon, so try to see the first or last show of the day.  You’ll also want to get to DinoLand USA before 10:30am to ride Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR because those two attractions are popular.  Still, they aren’t necessarily your top morning priorities and you can easily use FASTPASS if need arises.  Despite “only” being open nine hours, you can still see most of what the Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FASTPASS, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows.  Finally, crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade.  Plan to return to any favorites from 4:15pm through close when waits will be shorter than the afternoon.

Epcot isn’t recommended due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests, lack of long hours and evening entertainment elsewhere, and the natural progression of weeklong Disney vacationers that will naturally head to Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour will be an excellent time to tour, Epcot will get progressively busier as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  You could have success if you arrive at 7:30am, head straight for the headliners, and move up to the World Showcase around 11am, but afternoon crowds will be heavier than recommended days and you’ll likely want to Park Hop elsewhere or take a break around 2pm.  Yesterday and Thursday are the best days to visit this week.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended.  While Epcot will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests with its morning Extra Magic Hour, we have short hours at Magic Kingdom with no evening entertainment during regular theme park hours and a short day at Animal Kingdom as well.  Neither theme park will be drawing significant crowds.  When that happens, people tend to default to the Studios’ decent hours of operation and Fantasmic.  The fact that we don’t have Extra Magic Hours at the Studios to entice Disney resort guests in the near future doesn’t help either.  Yesterday and tomorrow are significantly better days to visit.  Nonetheless, there isn’t necessarily anything attracting people to the Studios specifically.  You can still do very well if you arrive prior to Park opening, hit the headliners and most popular characters first thing, use FASTPASS throughout the day, and take an afternoon break to rest up for dinner and Fantasmic.  However, most people will want to take advantage of the low crowds at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom and hold off on Hollywood Studios for a more recommended day.

Magic Kingdom is our best choice as far as crowds are concerned.  This may seem like an odd statement, considering that the operating hours are just 9am to 7pm, but that’s precisely why crowds will be so low.  The great majority of Disney vacationers would prefer to visit the Parks when the hours are longer because it seems like more time in the Parks equates to higher value for your money.  That seems logical considering the cost to enter the Parks is the same, regardless if Magic Kingdom is open from 8am to 1am or 9am to 7pm.  However, crowds are so much lower on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party days that you’ll actually be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.  As always, you’ll find the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight for Space/Big Thunder/Splash Mountains or Fantasyland for Enchanted Tales with Belle and Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should be able to do just about every major ride and many of the secondary attractions as well.  If you would also like to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes, consider spending a second day at the Magic Kingdom when those nighttime spectaculars are scheduled.  Today, focus on getting the most popular attractions out of the way.  With only one day to spend at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to decide whether seeing Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade is worth spending the day in heavier crowds.  If you’re looking to extend your day without adding Park Hopper or splurging on Mickey’s Christmas Party, you have a few options.  First, you can very easily transfer to the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian resorts for dinner.  From these resorts, you can also see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show that begins at 9:30pm.  The best is the Polynesian Resort’s Beach, which has a direct view of Cinderella Castle and has the music piped in on speakers.  My second favorite view is from the 4th floor observation deck at the Contemporary Resort, where the music is also piped in.  If there are a lot of people outside on the deck, look to the stairs on your left or right.  You can walk up a few floors and stand on the public balconies that overlook the same area.  The view from the boat dock at the Ticket and Transportation Center is also good and relatively easy to get to.  Simply take the Ferry or Monorail over from Magic Kingdom.  At the Grand Floridian, the best views are at the marina outside Gasparilla Grill and the boat dock that services Magic Kingdom.  You can also view the Fireworks show from the beach at Fort Wilderness, though that resort is a bit out of the way by bus or boat.  Because Disney will be running the Resort Monorail through 1am and running buses to and from Magic Kingdom until at least 1am to transport Party guests, you can very easily visit the resorts for free, see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show from a recommended location, and return to your resort at your convenience.  In a perfect world, I would schedule dinner at Kona Café at the Polynesian or The Wave at the Contemporary around 7:30pm.  I’d enjoy a leisurely dinner, tour the resort a bit, and then head out for the Fireworks.

Wednesday December 4

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 9pm (Tentatively Recommended for Nighttime Entertainment)

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

It’s the busiest day of the week at Animal Kingdom.  The morning Extra Magic Hour will attract the bulk of the Disney resort crowd and there’s no evening Extra Magic Hours to send guests in two different directions.  While the nighttime entertainment at Magic Kingdom helps, it won’t pull enough people away to make Animal Kingdom less crowded than other days during the week.  Avoid it unless you’re certainly that you’ll arrive by 7:40am to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour or simply can’t visit another day.

Epcot is highly recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Hollywood Studios.  We have the Main Street Electrical Parade pulling people towards Magic Kingdom and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios continuing to draw crowds.  Animal Kingdom will also be more popular with Disney resort guests  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day touring plan if you prefer.  If you arrive later, plan to rely on FASTPASS at Test Track or Soarin’.  Both will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10am due to their popularities and relatively low capacities.  Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Return to Future World after 5pm if you have more to accomplish and to ride/re-ride the headliners with FASTPASS.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  Magic Kingdom will be a bigger draw with longer hours of operation and Main Street Electrical Parade/Wishes.  Animal Kingdom will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the morning Extra Magic Hour.  Hollywood Studios is going to be busier each of the next two days with the shorts hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  Despite the recommendation, it’s still imperative to arrive prior to Park opening in order to ride Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with short waits.  Arrive at 10:30am with everyone else and you’ll find 60+ minute waits at Toy Story Mania.  To have the most success, arrive by 8:15am and head straight to Toy Story Mania, followed by Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.  Get through these attractions early in the morning or with FASTPASS and you have little to worry about for the rest of the day, other than keeping an eye on the time to make all of those scheduled stage shows.  Toy Story Mania is your top priority because FASTPASSes are in limited supply with the limited capacity and high populairty.  Also consider prioritizing the Toy Story character meet across from Toy Story Midway Mania or Phineas/Ferb in the Streets of America if you have interest in meeting either.  Both characters will see afternoon waits in the 20 to 45 minute range and they don’t offer FASTPASS.  The Osborne Lights are turned on between 6pm and 6:15pm.  Find a spot near the small stage in the middle of the Streets of America around 5:50pm if you’d like to see the lighting ceremony.  Otherwise, the Lights are left on for an hour after official close.  Arrive in the area about ten minutes before close and enjoy the Lights as crowds wane more and more as it gets later in the evening.  For Fantasmic, you’ll want to arrive about 60 minutes early to guarantee good seats together.  If that sounds like it’s about 30 minutes too long, consider the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the Fantasmic theater.  It will still require you to arrive at least 30 minutes early, or you run the risk of Disney opening the reserved section up to the general population, but it saves the stress of having to decide when it’s time to line up and decreases the overall wait.  The Fantasmic Dining Package makes the most sense on the Disney Dining Plan because it costs the same one table service credit at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano or Hollywood & Vine and two table service credits at Hollywood Brown Derby that you would pay otherwise.  Plus, it includes the appetizer, which you normally wouldn’t receive on the Disney Dining Plan.  While it’s officially a recommended day, arriving prior to Park opening and hitting the headliners first thing is more important than which day you pick.  Arrive at 11am, no matter the recommendation or the overall crowd level, and you’ll be looking at long lines at Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Magic Kingdom is tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there.  We have longer hours of operation and a very rare Main Street Electrical Parade scheduled at 8pm.  Monday will be busier with the evening Extra Magic Hours and this Saturday will be much busier with the longer hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars.  Anyone who wants to see Main Street Electrical Parade and doesn’t have Park Hopper (and many that do) will have to spend most of their day at the Magic Kingdom in order to see the Parade at night.  While the Magic Kingdom may be busier than other days this week, many people do want to see the Parade and Wishes Fireworks show and this is your best opportunity to do both.  Ideally, you would Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon or early evening, after spending the majority of your day at a Park that’s recommended higher.  This way, you can enjoy short lines and low crowds and still see the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectaculars.  Without Park Hopper, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for the most popular attractions on your itinerary.  The 9am to 11am timeframe is always the best time to tour, regardless of overall crowd level or what day you visit.  You’ll be able to get a lot done in those first two or three hours, but crowds will begin to build around 11am and will continue to be moderately heavy until the end of the night.  Plan to move on to some of the less popular attractions in the afternoon and/or take a lengthy afternoon break when crowds are at their highest.  You can then return to the Magic Kingdom around 5pm for dinner, Main Street Electrical Parade, and Wishes.  This is always the second best plan of attack (second to only the evening Park Hop) when you’re trying to see evening shows that aren’t scheduled often enough.  Overall, Magic Kingdom is recommended if you tour during the recommended times and make efficient use of the morning and FASTPASS.  It will be more crowded in the afternoon than several other days this week.  You’ll want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date if all you care about is low crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, I recommend staking out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square.  Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street.  You can then move to Main Street for Wishes.  For good viewing locations on Main Street for the Parade, you’ll need to arrive before 7pm and stay through 9pm to see both the Parade and Fireworks.  It’s usually easier to find Parade viewing locations in Frontierland about 10 minutes before the Parade begins and then move over to Main Street afterwards.  Tomorrow would be less crowded overall, even with the morning Extra Magic Hour complication.  Friday would be better than either day.

Thursday December 5

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is not expressly recommended, though it won’t be a terrible day there.  The morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom won’t draw nearly the same number of people as usual with the short hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment during regular Park hours.  We also don’t have evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled anywhere.  You can still do well by arriving prior to Park opening and taking care of the main priorities first thing in the morning, but it will be busier than the many recommended days during the week.  Most people will want to take advantage of the better days at Epcot or Magic Kingdom.

Epcot is our most recommended Park.  Disney resort guests will be looking to tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours and most off-site visitors will have visited earlier in the week.  The only problem is the lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  With the morning Extra Magic Hour there as well, we will have more Disney resort guests than usual looking to visit one of the other theme parks.  Luckily, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will see the brunt of that.  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  You may also want to take a more compartmentalized two-day approach, which gives you the benefit of enjoying the lowest possible crowds in both Future World and World Showcase each day.  Rely on FASTPASS throughout the day for Test Track, Soarin’, and Mission Space (in that order) if you’d like to ride any of them a second time.  If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am, beginning with the boat rides in Mexico and Norway.  These are the only two attractions in World Showcase that will see wait times.  Luckily, FASTPASSes for Maelstrom are plentiful and you’ll be able to grab FASTPASSes with a return time of just 40 minutes in the future in case the posted wait time is 20+ minutes or you’d like to ride two or three times in the late afternoon or evening.  Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning.  Most people will have moved on to World Showcase.  Keep in mind that most Future World attractions close at 7pm.  Usually only Soarin’, Test Tack, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends continue operating from 7pm – 9pm.  Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

With no evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom, short hours at Magic Kingdom, no evening Extra Magic Hours anywhere, and nothing special happening at Epcot or Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios is going to be busier than recommended days during the week.  Plus, it’s later in the week, which means most people on a weeklong vacation will already have visited Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they’ll be looking to spend a day at one of Disney World’s less popular theme parks.  With nothing specific drawing people to the Studios, it’s not going to be crazy crowded, but it is going to be busier than other recommended days during the week and should be avoided if possible.

Magic Kingdom is recommended today, which is rare for a day with a morning Extra Magic Hour attached.  However, the 9am to 7pm operating schedule and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in the evening make the Magic Kingdom significantly less crowded.  While the Extra Magic Hours schedule is a major deciding factor for Disney resort guests because many of them feel like it’s Disney’s way of dictating where they belong each day, the short hours will be a bigger turn off.  Over the past several years, Thursdays with a morning Extra Magic Hour and a 7pm close have not been much busier than other Mickey’s Party dates over the course of the week.  Days with longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment remain much more popular.  In other words, the morning Extra Magic Hour will attract some Disney resort guests, but the short hours of operation and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios will cause many of them to head elsewhere.  Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a Monday, Wednesday, and/or Saturday.  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, you can have a huge amount of success if you arrive by 7:40am and head straight for Fantasyland or other priorities.  You should have no trouble riding all Fantasyland attractions in the first hour and you can move to the headlining Mountain rides or popular characters after that.  If you aren’t Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t arrive until after 9am, head straight for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland where you should find short standby waits at most attractions.  Tomorrow will be slightly less crowded overall.  If you’re not Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t plan to arrive until after 9am, then Friday would be the better choice.

Friday December 6

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9:30pm – 11:30pm

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Christmas Parade Concert Taping

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 5pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  Epcot’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be much more attractive to Disney resort guests who think the Extra Magic Hours’ schedule is Disney’s way of telling them where they belong each day.  Hollywood Studios will also be busier with the short hours at Magic Kingdom.  The only problem with Magic Kingdom is the Christmas Parade taping possibly causing Main Street’s closure in the morning and some other slight inconveniences.  You won’t run into any problems at Animal Kingdom, particularly if you arrive by 8:30am and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing in the morning.  Stay through close because wait times will only decrease after 4pm as guests leave immediately following the Parade. Check your Times Guide to verify when the last Safari departs. It will likely be 5pm, which means you need to be in line no later than that. The Jungle Treks and other areas featuring animals close at the same time. Hit DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to find the shortest waits.

We’ll want to avoid Epcot.  Its evening Extra Magic Hours will lure the majority of Disney resort guests, which will lengthen waits times at the attractions for the entire afternoon and evening.  Epcot is almost always at its busiest and lines are the longest when it has evening Extra Magic Hours.  This is due to the fact that many Disney resort guests head to whichever Park has Extra Magic Hours, even if they don’t plan to take advantage of them.  Without Park Hopper, Disney resort guests must stay in the Park with Extra Magic Hours for the entire day.  The increased crowds lead to longer lines, heavier congestion in common areas, and an overall less pleasant touring experience.  I would urge you to visit a different Park.  If you want to head to Epcot today, despite my strong objections, your best chance to ride the headlining rides is from 9am-11am.  Most Disney resort guests will sleep in and arrive around lunch in anticipation of staying until 10-11pm.  The morning will be an excellent time to tour Epcot, but you’ll probably want to Park Hop elsewhere after lunch or you’ll be stuck in significantly larger-than-usual crowds.  You might also consider an afternoon break from 2pm-6pm when crowds will be at their largest.  You could then return in the early evening for dinner and Extra Magic Hours.  Alternatively, you could also Park Hop over in the evening for Extra Magic Hours, provided you’re aware of how busy it will be.  The last hour of Extra Magic Hours is always the least crowded, so plan to stay until 11pm and head back to Soarin’ and Test Track after 10pm.  Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended.  The major problem is the early close and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  When Magic Kingdom isn’t attracting a lot of people, we can have 30,000+ people looking to visit a different theme park.  Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the evening Extra Magic Hours, but that won’t do much to sway the sizable off-site contingent.  With nothing specific attracting guests to the Studios, you can certainly make today work by following the tried and true advice.  Arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania or Phineas/Ferb near Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano because wait times can hit 30+ minutes and FASTPASS isn’t an option.  Your other two ride priorities are Tower of Terror and Star Tours, but both are easier to FASTPASS in the afternoon and won’t see wait times anywhere near as high as Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Magic Kingdom is recommended.  The only problem is the likelihood that Disney will be filming portions of the concerts that will be featured during the Christmas Day Parade on ABC.  It’s much less of a concern than tomorrow’s taping, which closes Main Street from Park open through around 5pm.  Still, be aware that Main Street will most likely be closed at Park open and the Hub area in front of Cinderella Castle may also be closed until the afternoon. Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade moves to 5pm to accommodate these closures.  With the 7pm close, crowds will still be low, even if a popular performer brings in a few extra guests in the morning.  Plan to tour as usual with an 8:30am arrival.  Head straight to Fantasyland in the morning for Enchanted Tales with Belle, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto, Peter Pan’s Flight, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or to another priority and you’ll be in excellent shape.

Saturday December 7

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Christmas Parade Taping

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 5pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom comes recommended.  We don’t have Extra Magic Hours or special events to attract Disney vacationers of any sort.  Magic Kingdom will be attracting significant crowds with its long hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars and Hollywood Studios will be popular with the morning Extra Magic Hour and Fantasmic.  We also had two morning Extra Magic Hours earlier in the week and another on Monday to appeal to the sizable Disney resort contingent.  To take full advantage of the low crowd level, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Get those two attractions out of the way early and the only real concerns are getting to Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical.  You would be in the best shape if you could get to the first or last show of the day as well as over to DinoLand USA before 10:30am when lines begin to build at DINOSAUR and Primeval Whirl.  You may also want to prioritize the most popular characters.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should have no trouble experiencing just about everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in just one day.  Finally, keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and it’s usually a great time to return to the major attractions from 5pm through close.

Epcot is our best Park to visit.  Last night’s evening Extra Magic Hours will have been wildly popular with Disney resort guests and they will be nowhere near Epcot today, especially in the morning.  Take full advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track followed by Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  Move up to World Showcase as close to 11am as possible, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway, to stay ahead of the incoming crowds for as long as possible.  It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended, thanks to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests and the later close than any other day this week, which will attract off-site visitors as well.  You can have success from 8am – 10am if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, but the afternoon and evening are going to be busier than just about any day this week.  Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or plan to arrive by 7:30am to take advantage of low crowds in the morning.

Are you familiar with the Disney World Christmas Parade that’s shown on ABC Christmas morning? That Parade is primarily taped today.  If you’re looking to maximize your time in the Magic Kingdom by riding the rides and seeing the attractions with the shortest lines possible, today is a day you will want to avoid.  Saturdays are naturally the busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom and the filming of the parade will lead to even larger crowds of interested people and a lot of roped off areas and delays in the movement of foot traffic.  Also, the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 on the majority of other days this week, which will make today attractive to visitors who decide which Park to visit based on the total number of hours its open.  All of this leads to a more stressful day of touring that will be marred by delays and significant crowds.  On the other hand, if you aren’t so much concerned about the rides, then today will be a lot more interesting than most days at the Magic Kingdom.  You will get a chance to see the Christmas Parade live as well as have an opportunity to see various celebrities and parade floats up close.  It can be a fun and unique way to experience the Magic Kingdom, provided you aren’t trying to ride all the headliners in one day.  In most situations, you’ll want to casually observe the Parade rather than attend for the entire day.  The Parade does not run straight through like a “normal” Disney Parade and the directors and staff are constantly re-running the same floats and acts to get everything “just right.”  Keep in mind that Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes will be crowded this evening. Crowds will let up after 10pm and waits will again be short after 11pm, but you’ll run into significant crowds exiting the Park if you try for a late arrival.

Sunday December 8

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 8pm – 10pm

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended.  Hollywood Studios will be crowded with evening Extra Magic Hours.  Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Animal Kingdom tomorrow or Wednesday for morning Extra Magic Hour. With the longer-than-usual hours, you should be able to do just about everything the Park has to offer if you arrive close to Park opening.  Focus on riding Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as early as possible or use FASTPASS later in the day (or both).  After getting those out of the way, move on to DinoLand USA or one of the more popular shows – either Finding Nemo the Musical or Festival of the Lion King and you’ll be set for the rest of the day.  Keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and 5:30pm – 7pm will have shorter waits than the afternoon. Visit DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to minimize waits.  You also have a great opportunity to Park Hop after the Park closes.  You could head to Epcot for dinner and IllumiNations or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic.  Without Park Hopper, consider transferring to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner and a look around the resort or take a trip out to Downtown Disney or the BoardWalk for dinner and shopping.

Epcot is recommended if you need a day there.  Hollywood Studios will be attracting a lot of people for Fantasmic and evening Extra Magic Hours.  The only downside to visiting Epcot is the fact that Magic Kingdom isn’t going to be popular with short hours and lack of evening entertainment.  I’m looking towards tomorrow as a better day to visit Epcot, though today is also above average.  You will have the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day plan.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, Illuminations, and the Candlelight Processional.  Most people will want to take advantage of the lower crowds at Magic Kingdom and put off Epcot for tomorrow.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests.  The short hours at Magic Kingdom will also cause a lot of people to look elsewhere and they’ll find the Studios’ longer hours of operation and plentiful evening entertainment to be extremely attractive.  The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase around 11am as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  Because of that, there’s really no reason to head in that direction today.  Plus, there are only a few attractions open during evening Extra Magic Hours and the waits for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours will likely be just as long as they were during the day until after 9:30pm when people begin to give up and exit.  Fantasmic also dumps 9,000+ people on Sunset Boulevard at 7pm and again at 8:30pm, which is right next to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  Guess where most of those people will be headed?  If you’re staying for evening Extra Magic Hours, your best bet is always to save these headlining attractions for the very end of the night and visit Toy Story Mania last.  Still, the Studios is going to be swamped, relatively speaking, and tomorrow or Wednesday would be much better days to visit.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  The short hours and lack of evening entertainment will cause a lot of casual vacationers to head elsewhere.  We’re in between yesterday’s very popular longer hours of operation/both nighttime spectaculars and have a similar schedule tomorrow with evening Extra Magic Hours attached.  On top of that, Sunday is a major travel day for those on a standard weeklong Disney vacation.  With the early close, virtually none of them will start out with an abbreviated day at Magic Kingdom.  Few people that arrived on Saturday will also visit a theme park with a seemingly short day and no nighttime spectaculars.  Tomorrow will also be significantly more crowded.  If you’re looking to visit Magic Kingdom over two days, then you may want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date and another day where you can enjoy the nighttime spectaculars.  This coming Wednesday would be the least crowded day to take in the Electrical Parade and Wishes as well as enjoy the Magic Kingdom as it gets dark.  If you’re planning just one day at Magic Kingdom, then you’ll need to weigh whether you’re willing to put up with heavier crowds in order to enjoy both nighttime spectaculars.  While the 7pm close may seem a bit truncated, I can assure you that ten hours is a long time to spend in a theme park.  If you arrive by 8:40am, you’ll be able to accomplish an amazing number of attractions in a short period of time if you head straight for Fantasyland or other important attractions, use FASTPASSes throughout the day, and visit the less popular attractions in the afternoon.  Crowds will only diminish from 4pm to 6pm as people leave for dining reservations and other activities.  Around 6pm you will begin to see an influx of people arriving for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but they tend to congregate on Main Street waiting for their Party to begin, rather than heading for the attractions.  Stay through 7pm because wait times will only decrease from their afternoon highs as it gets closer to 7pm.  One thing about staying through 7pm is that at exactly 7pm (and possibly a couple of minutes before), the special characters will begin appearing for the Party.  If you’re not planning to do the Party and have kids, you may want to leave around 6:30pm.  Otherwise, your children may encounter a bunch of characters that they won’t be allowed to visit because you must have a Party bracelet to get in line.  There are no exceptions.  Other than those minor inconveniences, this is going to be one of the two least crowded days of the week at Magic Kingdom.  If short lines are a priority, today and Friday are the best days to visit.

Monday December 9

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 5pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 11pm – 1am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm and 10pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom will be moderately more popular than recommended days due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests.  Mondays at the Animal Kingdom aren’t wildly popular because of the fact that morning Extra Magic Hours aren’t as popular as evening Extra Magic Hours and because it’s early in the week and many people who travel over the weekend will be heading to the Magic Kingdom regardless of the Extra Magic Hours schedule.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour is an excellent time to tour, it’s difficult to get out to the Animal Kingdom by 7:45am to take full advantage of it.  If you’re staying at a Monorail Deluxe Resort, you’re looking at a 20+ minute drive to the Animal Kingdom, plus time for the bus to arrive – not to mention getting multiple people up and ready early in the morning with just one shower and limited space.  At 6:30am.  Or earlier.  If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll arrive by 7:45am, then you can have a lot of success because the crowd level won’t be that high, but it will be busier in the afternoon than other recommended days this week due to a higher number of Disney resort guests than usual.  You’re much better served holding off until Tuesday or Friday if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later.

Epcot is highly recommended.  It would be the “best Park” if not for the complications regarding Hollywood Studios and Fantasmic.  It’s an excellent choice.  With no special events, Extra Magic Hours, or special evening entertainment, there’s nothing to draw people toward Epcot today.  Most Disney resort guests will hold off until tomorrow for morning Extra Magic Hour and we have a lot of people headed to Magic Kingdom for evening Extra Magic Hours and Main Street Electrical Parade.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow one of the compartmentalized two-day touring plans.  To stay ahead of the crowds for as long as possible, move up to the World Showcase beginning at 11am with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Once you get through Gran Fiesta Tour and Maelstrom, you shouldn’t run into any appreciable waits at the other World Showcase Pavilions.  If you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm to visit any non-headlining attractions.  Most people will have moved up through World Showcase by this time, decreasing crowds and waits.  If you’d like to ride Soarin’ and Test Track again in the afternoon or evening, plan to rely on FASTPASS.  Check your Times Guide to see which Future World attractions remain open past 7pm – it’s usually only Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot. and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  Finally, it’ an excellent day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.  For the Candlelight Processional, consider the Dining Package which guarantees a seat if you’re planning a big meal.  For lunch, Biergarten is a good, less expensive choice.  Without the Package, be prepared to arrive 60 to 120 minutes before the start of the show.  The first show of the day is usually the least crowded.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  We’re coming off two popular days in a row at the Studios due to the Extra Magic Hours that attract the predictable Disney resort contingent.  To have success, you’ll still want to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.  Because Toy Story Mania has such a limited capacity, wait times are almost always 60+ minutes in the afternoon and FASTPASSes are extremely limited.  You’ll want to make it your top priority.  Your second priority is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which also sees long afternoon waits and FASTPASSes in short supply.  Tower of Terror and Star Tours should be easier to ride, but also remain priorities.  If you can get these attractions done in the early morning, you’ll be in great shape for the rest of the day.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story, Phineas and Ferb, or Sorcerer Mickey characters.  In addition, characters appear at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat in the early morning that won’t appear during any other part of the day.  Usually, Minnie, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Piglet, and Tigger appear, but no specific characters are guaranteed.  The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule.  The Osborne Lights are turned on between 6pm and 6:15pm in the middle of the Streets of America.  Arrive by 5:55pm and head toward the small stage set up with the tree in the back for the best view.  The Lights are kept on for an hour after the Park officially closes.  Arrive about ten minutes before close and hang out as long as you like to experience the Lights with the fewest number of people around.  For Fantasmic, consider the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater.  You’ll still need to arrive at least 30 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package.  It makes the most sense on the Disney Dining Plan because it only costs one table service credit (except at Hollywood Brown Derby, which still costs two as it would otherwise) and includes the appetizer.  As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the middle sections, but be prepared to arrive an hour early for those seats.  Any closer and you run the risk of getting wet and it’s more difficult to see what’s happening on the water.  Overall, this is the best day to visit the Studios and see Fantasmic, but you’ll still want to arrive early and tour efficiently to have the most success.  This Wednesday is the best day if you’re looking for the lowest crowds, but the Studios closes at 6pm and may not offer Osborne Lights and Fantasmic isn’t scheduled.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busy today.  Mondays are usually the second busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom, second to only Saturdays, for a variety of reasons.  First, a lot of people travel over the weekend and visit Magic Kingdom on their first full day.  In most instances, that day is Monday.  Second, Mondays often feature longer hours, Wishes Fireworks, and Main Street Electrical Parade, when other days during the week have shorter operating hours and don’t offer the Electrical Parade.  Anyone who wants to see the evening entertainment will have to visit on a day when it’s offered, like most Saturdays and Mondays.  Finally, we have evening Extra Magic Hours, which will attract the majority of Disney resort guests (not that they really needed another reason to head here anyway).  While this Saturday should prove to be busier, today is going to be a close second.  You could have success in the morning from 9am to 11am or so, and again in the evening from 10:30pm through close but you’re much better off waiting until a recommended day later in the week.  Tuesday and Friday would be best.  Wednesday will be the best day this week to see Wishes and Main Street Electrical Parade and Tuesday and Friday will be substantially less crowded overall.  If you are headed to Magic Kingdom, despite these warnings, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for Fantasyland or the headlining Mountain rides.  You’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit in the first two hours, but crowds will be heavy from 11am until around 10pm.  You’ll either want to take an afternoon break when crowds are at their heaviest or move on to the less popular attractions.  After your break, return to Magic Kingdom in the evening for dinner, the nighttime shows, and Extra Magic Hours.  If you are staying for Extra Magic Hours, begin in Adventureland because most people will head to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland first.  Next, move up through Frontierland and Liberty Square on your way to Tomorrowland.  Save Fantasyland for last because most families will have left by 11:30pm and Fantasyland will be low on crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the later Parade.  Both locations offer a great view and will be substantially less crowded than Main Street.

Tuesday December 10

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 5pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Magic Kingdom.  We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it.  It’s also early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week.  Overall, today and Friday are the two best days of the week to visit.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows and potentially the more popular characters.  Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon, so try to see the first or last show of the day.  You’ll also want to get to DinoLand USA before 10:30am to ride Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR because those two attractions are popular.  Still, they aren’t necessarily your top morning priorities and you can easily use FASTPASS if need arises.  Despite “only” being open eight hours, you can still see most of what the Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FASTPASS, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows.  Finally, crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade.  Plan to return to any favorites from 4:15pm through close when waits will be shorter than the afternoon.

Epcot isn’t recommended due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests, lack of long hours and evening entertainment elsewhere, and the natural progression of weeklong Disney vacationers that will naturally head to Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour will be an excellent time to tour, Epcot will get progressively busier as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  You could have success if you arrive at 7:30am, head straight for the headliners, and move up to the World Showcase around 11am, but afternoon crowds will be heavier than recommended days and you’ll likely want to Park Hop elsewhere or take a break around 2pm.  Yesterday and Thursday are the best days to visit this week.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended.  While Epcot will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests with its morning Extra Magic Hour, we have short hours at Magic Kingdom with no evening entertainment during regular theme park hours and a short day at Animal Kingdom as well.  Neither theme park will be drawing significant crowds.  When that happens, people tend to default to the Studios’ decent hours of operation and Fantasmic.  The fact that we don’t have Extra Magic Hours at the Studios to entice Disney resort guests in the near future doesn’t help either. Tomorrow will be extremely unattractive to casual visitors with the earlier close and lack of Fantasmic and Osborne Lights.  Yesterday and tomorrow are significantly better days to visit.  Nonetheless, there isn’t necessarily anything attracting people to the Studios specifically.  You can still do very well if you arrive prior to Park opening, hit the headliners and most popular characters first thing, use FASTPASS throughout the day, and take an afternoon break to rest up for dinner and Fantasmic.  However, most people will want to take advantage of the low crowds at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom and hold off on Hollywood Studios for a more recommended day.

Magic Kingdom is our best choice as far as crowds are concerned.  This may seem like an odd statement, considering that the operating hours are just 9am to 7pm, but that’s precisely why crowds will be so low.  The great majority of Disney vacationers would prefer to visit the Parks when the hours are longer because it seems like more time in the Parks equates to higher value for your money.  That seems logical considering the cost to enter the Parks is the same, regardless if Magic Kingdom is open from 8am to 1am or 9am to 7pm.  However, crowds are so much lower on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party days that you’ll actually be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.  As always, you’ll find the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight for Space/Big Thunder/Splash Mountains or Fantasyland for Enchanted Tales with Belle and Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should be able to do just about every major ride and many of the secondary attractions as well.  If you would also like to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes, consider spending a second day at the Magic Kingdom when those nighttime spectaculars are scheduled.  Today, focus on getting the most popular attractions out of the way.  With only one day to spend at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to decide whether seeing Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade is worth spending the day in heavier crowds.  If you’re looking to extend your day without adding Park Hopper or splurging on Mickey’s Christmas Party, you have a few options.  First, you can very easily transfer to the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian resorts for dinner.  From these resorts, you can also see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show that begins at 9:30pm.  The best is the Polynesian Resort’s Beach, which has a direct view of Cinderella Castle and has the music piped in on speakers.  My second favorite view is from the 4th floor observation deck at the Contemporary Resort, where the music is also piped in.  If there are a lot of people outside on the deck, look to the stairs on your left or right.  You can walk up a few floors and stand on the public balconies that overlook the same area.  The view from the boat dock at the Ticket and Transportation Center is also good and relatively easy to get to.  Simply take the Ferry or Monorail over from Magic Kingdom.  At the Grand Floridian, the best views are at the marina outside Gasparilla Grill and the boat dock that services Magic Kingdom.  You can also view the Fireworks show from the beach at Fort Wilderness, though that resort is a bit out of the way by bus or boat.  Because Disney will be running the Resort Monorail through 1am and running buses to and from Magic Kingdom until at least 1am to transport Party guests, you can very easily visit the resorts for free, see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show from a recommended location, and return to your resort at your convenience.  In a perfect world, I would schedule dinner at Kona Café at the Polynesian or The Wave at the Contemporary around 7:30pm.  I’d enjoy a leisurely dinner, tour the resort a bit, and then head out for the Fireworks.

Wednesday December 11

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 6pm (Most Recommended)

Osborne Lights May Not Be Turned On

Fantasmic: none

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 9pm (Tentatively Recommended for Nighttime Entertainment)

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

It’s the busiest day of the week at Animal Kingdom.  The morning Extra Magic Hour will attract the bulk of the Disney resort crowd and there’s no evening Extra Magic Hours to send guests in two different directions.  While the nighttime entertainment at Magic Kingdom helps, it won’t pull enough people away to make Animal Kingdom less crowded than other days during the week, particularly with Hollywood Studios attracting few people.  Avoid it unless you’re certainly that you’ll arrive by 7:40am to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour or simply can’t visit another day.

Epcot is highly recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Hollywood Studios. Magic Kingdom will be more popular with the longer hours and both nighttime spectaculars and Animal Kingdom will also be more popular with Disney resort guests with the morning Extra Magic Hour.  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day touring plan if you prefer.  If you arrive later, plan to rely on FASTPASS at Test Track or Soarin’.  Both will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10am due to their popularities and relatively low capacities.  Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Return to Future World after 5pm if you have more to accomplish and to ride/re-ride the headliners with FASTPASS.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  However, you’ll want to take note of the 6pm close for the Pop Warner private party that begins after official close.  Because of the party, the Osborne Lights may not be turned on in the evening because Disney is interested in getting people out of the Park as quickly as possible to set up for the event.  If you don’t care about the Lights or plan to see them another night, then today is a great day to visit. Note that Fantasmic is also not scheduled.  Magic Kingdom will be a bigger draw with longer hours of operation and Main Street Electrical Parade/Wishes.  Animal Kingdom will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the morning Extra Magic Hour.  Hollywood Studios is going to be busier each of the next two days with the shorts hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom. Stay through close because few people will be Park Hopping in the afternoon with no nighttime entertainment scheduled. Crowds will only decrease from 3pm through 6pm.

Magic Kingdom is tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there.  We have longer hours of operation and a very rare Main Street Electrical Parade scheduled at 8pm.  Monday will be busier with the evening Extra Magic Hours and this Saturday will be much busier with the longer hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars.  Anyone who wants to see Main Street Electrical Parade and doesn’t have Park Hopper (and many that do) will have to spend most of their day at the Magic Kingdom in order to see the Parade at night.  While the Magic Kingdom may be busier than other days this week, many people do want to see the Parade and Wishes Fireworks show and this is your best opportunity to do both.  Ideally, you would Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon or early evening, after spending the majority of your day at a Park that’s recommended higher.  This way, you can enjoy short lines and low crowds and still see the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectaculars.  Without Park Hopper, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for the most popular attractions on your itinerary.  The 9am to 11am timeframe is always the best time to tour, regardless of overall crowd level or what day you visit.  You’ll be able to get a lot done in those first two or three hours, but crowds will begin to build around 11am and will continue to be moderately heavy until the end of the night.  Plan to move on to some of the less popular attractions in the afternoon and/or take a lengthy afternoon break when crowds are at their highest.  You can then return to the Magic Kingdom around 5pm for dinner, Main Street Electrical Parade, and Wishes.  This is always the second best plan of attack (second to only the evening Park Hop) when you’re trying to see evening shows that aren’t scheduled often enough.  Overall, Magic Kingdom is recommended if you tour during the recommended times and make efficient use of the morning and FASTPASS.  It will be more crowded in the afternoon than several other days this week.  You’ll want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date if all you care about is low crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, I recommend staking out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square.  Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street.  You can then move to Main Street for Wishes.  For good viewing locations on Main Street for the Parade, you’ll need to arrive before 7pm and stay through 9pm to see both the Parade and Fireworks.  It’s usually easier to find Parade viewing locations in Frontierland about 10 minutes before the Parade begins and then move over to Main Street afterwards.  Tomorrow would be less crowded overall, even with the morning Extra Magic Hour complication.  Friday would be better than either day.

Thursday December 12

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is not expressly recommended, though it won’t be a terrible day there.  The morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom won’t draw nearly the same number of people as usual with the short hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment during regular Park hours.  We also don’t have evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled anywhere.  You can still do well by arriving prior to Park opening and taking care of the main priorities first thing in the morning, but it will be busier than the many recommended days during the week.  Most people will want to take advantage of the better days at Epcot or Magic Kingdom.

Epcot is our most recommended Park.  Disney resort guests will be looking to tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours and most off-site visitors will have visited earlier in the week.  The only problem is the lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  With the morning Extra Magic Hour there as well, we will have more Disney resort guests than usual looking to visit one of the other theme parks.  Luckily, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will see the brunt of that.  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  You may also want to take a more compartmentalized two-day approach, which gives you the benefit of enjoying the lowest possible crowds in both Future World and World Showcase each day.  If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am, beginning with the boat rides in Mexico and Norway.  These are the only two attractions in World Showcase that will see wait times.  Luckily, FASTPASSes for Maelstrom are plentiful and you’ll be able to grab FASTPASSes with a return time of just 40 minutes in the future in case the posted wait time is 20+ minutes or you’d like to ride two or three times in the late afternoon or evening.  Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning.  Most people will have moved on to World Showcase.  Keep in mind that most Future World attractions close at 7pm.  Usually only Soarin’, Test Tack, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends continue operating from 7pm – 9pm.  Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

With no evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom, short hours at Magic Kingdom, no evening Extra Magic Hours anywhere, and nothing special happening at Epcot or Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios is going to be busier than recommended days during the week.  Plus, it’s later in the week, which means most people on a weeklong vacation will already have visited Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they’ll be looking to spend a day at one of Disney World’s less popular theme parks.  We’re also coming off a far less popular day yesterday with the short hours and lack of nighttime entertainment.

Magic Kingdom is recommended today, which is rare for a day with a morning Extra Magic Hour attached.  However, the 9am to 7pm operating schedule and Mickey’s Very Merry Party in the evening make the Magic Kingdom significantly less crowded.  While the Extra Magic Hours schedule is a major deciding factor for Disney resort guests because many of them feel like it’s Disney’s way of dictating where they belong each day, the short hours will be a bigger turn off.  Over the past several years, Thursdays with a morning Extra Magic Hour and a 7pm close have not been much busier than other Mickey’s Party dates over the course of the week.  Days with longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment remain much more popular.  In other words, the morning Extra Magic Hour will attract some Disney resort guests, but the short hours of operation and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios will cause many of them to head elsewhere.  Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a Monday, Wednesday, and/or Saturday.  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, you can have a huge amount of success if you arrive by 7:40am and head straight for Fantasyland or other priorities.  You should have no trouble riding all Fantasyland attractions in the first hour and you can move to the headlining Mountain rides or popular characters after that.  If you aren’t Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t arrive until after 9am, head straight for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland where you should find short standby waits at most attractions.  Tomorrow will be slightly less crowded overall.  If you’re not Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t plan to arrive until after 9am, then Friday would be the better choice.

Friday December 13

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9:30pm – 11:30pm

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended, though it isn’t the best day of the week there.  Most people will want to take advantage of the lower crowds at Magic Kingdom, but Animal Kingdom is certainly a viable alternative.  If you’re trying to decide whether to visit Magic Kingdom/Animal Kingdom today or tomorrow, then I would go with Magic Kingdom today and Animal Kingdom tomorrow.  That way, locals are much less of a concern.  The main problem with Animal Kingdom is that Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and doesn’t offer evening entertainment of any kind during regular Park hours.  Most casual vacationers will avoid it because of that and they’ll naturally head to one of the other three major theme parks.  Luckily, Epcot’s evening Extra Magic Hours are always popular and will draw a lot of Disney resort guests.  Hollywood Studios will remain busy with the decent operating hours and Fantasmic.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing.  After that, move on to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl/DINOSAUR, visit the characters, or see the first Festival of the Lion King and/or Finding Nemo the Musical. Keep in mind that crowds disperse after the 3:45pm Parade.  If you couldn’t get to some of the attraction earlier in the day, stay through until close because waits will only decrease from 4:30pm through close.

We’ll want to avoid Epcot.  Its evening Extra Magic Hours will lure the majority of Disney resort guests, which will lengthen waits times at the attractions for the entire afternoon and evening.  Epcot is almost always at its busiest and lines are the longest when it has evening Extra Magic Hours.  This is due to the fact that many Disney resort guests head to whichever Park has Extra Magic Hours, even if they don’t plan to take advantage of them.  Without Park Hopper, Disney resort guests must stay in the Park with Extra Magic Hours for the entire day.  The increased crowds lead to longer lines, heavier congestion in common areas, and an overall less pleasant touring experience.  I would urge you to visit a different Park.  If you want to head to Epcot today, despite my strong objections, your best chance to ride the headlining rides is from 9am-11am.  Most Disney resort guests will sleep in and arrive around lunch in anticipation of staying until 10-11pm.  The morning will be an excellent time to tour Epcot, but you’ll probably want to Park Hop elsewhere after lunch or you’ll be stuck in significantly larger-than-usual crowds.  You might also consider an afternoon break from 2pm-6pm when crowds will be at their largest.  You could then return in the early evening for dinner and Extra Magic Hours.  Alternatively, you could also Park Hop over in the evening for Extra Magic Hours, provided you’re aware of how busy it will be.  The last hour of Extra Magic Hours is always the least crowded, so plan to stay until 11pm and head back to Soarin’ and Test Track after 10pm.  Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended.  The major problem is the early close and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  When Magic Kingdom isn’t attracting a lot of people, we can have 30,000+ people looking to visit a different theme park.  Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the evening Extra Magic Hours, but that won’t do much to sway the sizable off-site contingent.  With nothing specific attracting guests to the Studios, you can certainly make today work by following the tried and true advice.  Arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania or Phineas/Ferb near Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano because wait times can hit 30+ minutes and FASTPASS isn’t an option.  Your other two ride priorities are Tower of Terror and Star Tours, but both are easier to FASTPASS in the afternoon and won’t see wait times anywhere near as high as Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Nearly every casual vacationer prefers visiting Magic Kingdom when it’s open later and offers nighttime entertainment during regular Park hours.  With the “short” hours of operation, most people will be looking to visit another Park and save Magic Kingdom for tomorrow.  Take advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and taking care of your priorities first thing.  Most people will want to start with Enchanted Tales with Belle, one of the Mountains, a low capacity attraction like Astro Orbiter, or character that doesn’t offer FASTPASS.  While the day may seem “short,” I can assure you that ten hours in a theme park is plenty of time to experience a lot, especially with low crowds and short waits.  Stay through 7pm because crowds only get lower from 4pm to 6pm.  After 6pm, more and more Party goers will arrive, but they generally congregate on Main Street awaiting the start of their event rather than clogging up lines at the attractions.  Be advised that the special characters for the Party come out right at 7pm.  If you have young kids that may be upset if they see characters that they can’t meet, be at the exit by 6:50pm.  If you’d like to elongate your evening, consider a meal at one of the resorts connected by the monorail.  I like to book Kona Café around 7:30pm and then pop out to the Polynesian Beach to watch the Fireworks.  You can easily return to Magic Kingdom later and hop on a bus or boat back to your resort.

Saturday December 14

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom comes recommended.  We don’t have Extra Magic Hours or special events to attract Disney vacationers of any sort.  Magic Kingdom will be attracting significant crowds with its long hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars and Hollywood Studios will be popular with the morning Extra Magic Hour and Fantasmic.  We also had two morning Extra Magic Hours earlier in the week and another on Monday to appeal to the sizable Disney resort contingent.  To take full advantage of the low crowd level, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Get those two attractions out of the way early and the only real concerns are getting to Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical.  You would be in the best shape if you could get to the first or last show of the day as well as over to DinoLand USA before 10:30am when lines begin to build at DINOSAUR and Primeval Whirl.  You may also want to prioritize the most popular characters.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should have no trouble experiencing just about everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in just one day.  Finally, keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and it’s usually a great time to return to the major attractions from 4:30pm through close. Visit DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to enjoy the shortest waits possible.

Epcot is our best Park to visit.  Last night’s evening Extra Magic Hours will have been wildly popular with Disney resort guests and they will be nowhere near Epcot today, especially in the morning.  Take full advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track followed by Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  Move up to World Showcase as close to 11am as possible, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway, to stay ahead of the incoming crowds for as long as possible.  It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended, thanks to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests.  You can have success from 8am – 10am if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, but the afternoon and evening are going to be busier than just about any day this week.  Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or plan to arrive by 7:30am to take advantage of low crowds in the morning.

Saturdays are naturally the busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom.  We have longer hours of operation, visiting locals, and a lot of vacationers who will be visiting the Magic Kingdom for a second time before returning home tomorrow.  On top of that, Main Street Electrical Parade is only scheduled on three nights this week.  Because the Parade is so popular, a lot of people will visit on a day that they can see it, like today.  All of this makes me hesitant about recommending the Magic Kingdom, despite a lack of Extra Magic Hours.  Any of the last six days would have been less crowded.  The afternoon will be busier than any other day this week and you’ll either want to take a break and return for the Electrical Parade and Wishes or visit the less popular attractions from 1pm – 7pm.  Crowds will also be low in the evening with 10pm to 1am seeing much lower crowds than the afternoon. If you can stay through close, you can do well in the final three hours. Save Tomorrowland for after 11pm and finish up with Fantasyland from midnight to close. While it is possible to have a decent day here if you arrive early and tour efficiently, there are much less crowded days to visit during the week.

Sunday December 15

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 8pm – 10pm

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended.  Hollywood Studios will be crowded with evening Extra Magic Hours and the two Fantasic shows.  Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Animal Kingdom tomorrow or Wednesday for morning Extra Magic Hour. With the longer-than-usual operating hours, you should be able to do just about everything the Park has to offer if you arrive close to Park opening.  Focus on riding Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as early as possible or rely on FASTPASS later in the day (or both).  After getting those out of the way, move on to DinoLand USA or one of the more popular shows – either Finding Nemo the Musical or Festival of the Lion King and you’ll be set for the rest of the day.  Keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and 5pm – 7pm will have shorter waits than the afternoon. Visit DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to find the shortest waits possible. Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Jungle Treks will close earlier than 7pm. Check your Times Guide to verify.  You also have a great opportunity to Park Hop after the Park closes.  You could head to Epcot for dinner and IllumiNations or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic.  Without Park Hopper, consider transferring to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner and a look around the resort or take a trip out to Downtown Disney or the BoardWalk for dinner and shopping.

Epcot is recommended if you need a day there.  Hollywood Studios will be attracting a lot of people for Fantasmic and evening Extra Magic Hours.  The only downside to visiting Epcot is the fact that Magic Kingdom isn’t going to be popular with short hours and lack of evening entertainment.  I’m looking towards tomorrow as a better day to visit Epcot, though today is also above average.  You will have the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day plan.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, Illuminations, and the Candlelight Processional.  Most people will want to take advantage of the lower crowds at Magic Kingdom and put off Epcot for tomorrow.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests.  The short hours at Magic Kingdom will also cause a lot of people to look elsewhere and they’ll find the Studios’ longer hours of operation and plentiful evening entertainment to be extremely attractive.  The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase around 11am as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  Because of that, there’s really no reason to head in that direction today.  Plus, there are only a few attractions open during evening Extra Magic Hours and the waits for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours will likely be just as long as they were during the day until after 9:30pm when people begin to give up and exit.  Fantasmic also dumps 9,000+ people on Sunset Boulevard at 7pm and again at 8:30pm, which is right next to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  Guess where most of those people will be headed?  If you’re staying for evening Extra Magic Hours, your best bet is always to save these headlining attractions for the very end of the night and visit Toy Story Mania last.  Still, the Studios is going to be swamped, relatively speaking, and tomorrow or Wednesday would be much better days to visit.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  The short hours and lack of evening entertainment will cause a lot of casual vacationers to head elsewhere.  We’re in between yesterday’s very popular longer hours of operation/both nighttime spectaculars and have a similar schedule tomorrow with evening Extra Magic Hours attached.  On top of that, Sunday is a major travel day for those on a standard weeklong Disney vacation.  With the early close, virtually none of them will start out with an abbreviated day at Magic Kingdom.  Few people that arrived on Saturday will also visit a theme park with a seemingly short day and no nighttime spectaculars.  Tomorrow will also be significantly more crowded.  If you’re looking to visit Magic Kingdom over two days, then you may want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date and another day where you can enjoy the nighttime spectaculars.  This coming Wednesday would be the least crowded day to take in the Electrical Parade and Wishes as well as enjoy the Magic Kingdom as it gets dark.  If you’re planning just one day at Magic Kingdom, then you’ll need to weigh whether you’re willing to put up with heavier crowds in order to enjoy both nighttime spectaculars.  While the 7pm close may seem a bit truncated, I can assure you that ten hours is a long time to spend in a theme park.  If you arrive by 8:40am, you’ll be able to accomplish an amazing number of attractions in a short period of time if you head straight for Fantasyland or other important attractions, use FASTPASS throughout the day, and visit the less popular attractions in the afternoon.  Crowds will only diminish from 4pm to 6pm as people leave for dining reservations and other activities.  Around 6pm you will begin to see an influx of people arriving for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but they tend to congregate on Main Street waiting for their Party to begin, rather than heading for the attractions.  Stay through 7pm because wait times will only decrease from their afternoon highs as it gets closer to 7pm.  One thing about staying through 7pm is that at exactly 7pm (and possibly a couple of minutes before), the special characters will begin appearing for the Party.  If you’re not planning to do the Party and have kids, you may want to leave around 6:30pm.  Otherwise, your children may encounter a bunch of characters that they won’t be allowed to visit because you must have a Party bracelet to get in line.  There are no exceptions.  Other than those minor inconveniences, this is going to be one of the two least crowded days of the week at Magic Kingdom.  If short lines are a priority, today and Friday are the best days to visit.

Monday December 16

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 5pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 11pm – 1am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm and 10pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom will be moderately more popular than recommended days due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests.  Mondays at the Animal Kingdom aren’t wildly popular because of the fact that morning Extra Magic Hours aren’t as popular as evening Extra Magic Hours and because it’s early in the week and many people who travel over the weekend will be heading to the Magic Kingdom regardless of the Extra Magic Hours schedule.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour is an excellent time to tour, it’s difficult to get out to the Animal Kingdom by 7:45am to take full advantage of it.  If you’re staying at a Monorail Deluxe Resort, you’re looking at a 20+ minute drive to the Animal Kingdom, plus time for the bus to arrive – not to mention getting multiple people up and ready early in the morning with just one shower and limited space.  At 6:30am.  Or earlier.  If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll arrive by 7:45am, then you can have a lot of success because the crowd level won’t be that high, but it will be busier in the afternoon than other recommended days this week due to a higher number of Disney resort guests than usual.  You’re much better served holding off until Tuesday or Friday if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later.

Epcot is highly recommended.  It would be the “best Park” if not for the complications regarding Hollywood Studios and Fantasmic.  It’s an excellent choice.  With no special events, Extra Magic Hours, or special evening entertainment, there’s nothing to draw people toward Epcot today.  Most Disney resort guests will hold off until tomorrow for morning Extra Magic Hour and we have a lot of people headed to Magic Kingdom for evening Extra Magic Hours and Main Street Electrical Parade.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow one of the compartmentalized two-day touring plans.  To stay ahead of the crowds for as long as possible, move up to the World Showcase beginning at 11am with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Once you get through Gran Fiesta Tour and Maelstrom, you shouldn’t run into any appreciable waits at the other World Showcase Pavilions.  If you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm to visit any non-headlining attractions.  Most people will have moved up through World Showcase by this time, decreasing crowds and waits.  If you’d like to ride Soarin’ and Test Track again in the afternoon or evening, plan to rely on FASTPASS.  Check your Times Guide to see which Future World attractions remain open past 7pm – it’s usually only Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot. and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  Finally, it’ an excellent day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.  For the Candlelight Processional, consider the Dining Package which guarantees a seat if you’re planning a big meal.  For lunch, Biergarten is a good, less expensive choice.  Without the Package, be prepared to arrive 60 to 120 minutes before the start of the show.  The first show of the day is usually the least crowded.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  We’re coming off two popular days in a row at the Studios due to the Extra Magic Hours that attract the predictable Disney resort contingent.  To have success, you’ll still want to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.  Because Toy Story Mania has such a limited capacity, wait times are almost always 60+ minutes in the afternoon and FASTPASSes are extremely limited.  You’ll want to make it your top priority.  Your second priority is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which also sees long afternoon waits and limited FASTPASS availability.  Tower of Terror and Star Tours should be easier to ride, but also remain priorities.  If you can get these attractions done in the early morning, you’ll be in great shape for the rest of the day.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story, Phineas and Ferb, or Sorcerer Mickey characters.  In addition, characters appear at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat in the early morning that won’t appear during any other part of the day.  Usually, Minnie, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Piglet, and Tigger appear, but no specific characters are guaranteed.  The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule.  The Osborne Lights are turned on between 6pm and 6:15pm in the middle of the Streets of America.  Arrive by 5:55pm and head toward the small stage set up with the tree in the back for the best view.  The Lights are kept on for an hour after the Park officially closes.  Arrive about ten minutes before close and hang out as long as you like to experience the Lights with the fewest number of people around.  For Fantasmic, consider the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater.  You’ll still need to arrive at least 30 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package.  It makes the most sense on the Disney Dining Plan because it only costs one table service credit (except at Hollywood Brown Derby, which still costs two as it would otherwise) and includes the appetizer.  As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the middle sections, but be prepared to arrive an hour early for those seats.  Any closer and you run the risk of getting wet and it’s more difficult to see what’s happening on the water.  Overall, it’s one of the two best days of the week to visit the Studios and see Fantasmic, but you’ll still want to arrive early and tour efficiently to have the most success.  This Wednesday is also recommended if you have other plans.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busy today.  Mondays are usually the second busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom, second to only Saturdays, for a variety of reasons.  First, a lot of people travel over the weekend and visit Magic Kingdom on their first full day.  In most instances, that day is Monday.  Second, Mondays often feature longer hours, Wishes Fireworks, and Main Street Electrical Parade, when other days during the week have shorter operating hours and don’t offer the Electrical Parade.  Anyone who wants to see the evening entertainment will have to visit on a day when it’s offered, like most Saturdays and Mondays.  Finally, we have evening Extra Magic Hours, which will attract the majority of Disney resort guests (not that they really needed another reason to head here anyway).  While this Saturday should prove to be busier, today is going to be a close second.  You could have success in the morning from 9am to 11am or so, and again in the evening from 10:30pm through close but you’re much better off waiting until a recommended day later in the week.  Tuesday and Friday would be best.  Wednesday will be the best day this week to see Wishes and Main Street Electrical Parade and Tuesday and Friday will be substantially less crowded overall.  If you are headed to Magic Kingdom, despite these warnings, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for Fantasyland or the headlining Mountain rides.  You’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit in the first two hours, but crowds will be heavy from 11am until around 10pm.  You’ll either want to take an afternoon break when crowds are at their heaviest or move on to the less popular attractions.  After your break, return to Magic Kingdom in the evening for dinner, the nighttime shows, and Extra Magic Hours.  If you are staying for Extra Magic Hours, begin in Adventureland because most people will head to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland first.  Next, move up through Frontierland and Liberty Square on your way to Tomorrowland.  Save Fantasyland for last because most families will have left by 11:30pm and Fantasyland will be low on crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the later Parade.  Both locations offer a great view and will be substantially less crowded than Main Street.

Tuesday December 17

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Magic Kingdom.  We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it.  It’s also early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week.  Overall, today and Friday are the two best days of the week to visit.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows and potentially the more popular characters.  Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon, so try to see the first or last show of the day.  You’ll also want to get to DinoLand USA before 10:30am to ride Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR because those two attractions are popular.  Still, they aren’t necessarily your top morning priorities and you can easily use FASTPASS if need arises.  Despite “only” being open nine hours, you can still see most of what the Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FASTPASS, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows.  Finally, crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade.  Plan to return to any favorites from 4:30pm through close when waits will be shorter than the afternoon.

Epcot isn’t recommended due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests, lack of long hours and evening entertainment elsewhere, and the natural progression of weeklong Disney vacationers that will naturally head to Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour will be an excellent time to tour, Epcot will get progressively busier as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  You could have success if you arrive at 7:30am, head straight for the headliners, and move up to the World Showcase around 11am, but afternoon crowds will be heavier than recommended days and you’ll likely want to Park Hop elsewhere or take a break around 2pm.  Yesterday and Thursday are the best days to visit this week.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended.  While Epcot will attract a decent number of Disney resort guests with its morning Extra Magic Hour, we have short hours at Magic Kingdom with no evening entertainment during regular theme park hours and a short day at Animal Kingdom as well.  Neither theme park will be drawing significant crowds.  When that happens, people tend to default to the Studios’ decent hours of operation and Fantasmic.  The fact that we don’t have Extra Magic Hours at the Studios to entice Disney resort guests in the near future doesn’t help either.  Yesterday and tomorrow are significantly better days to visit.  Nonetheless, there isn’t necessarily anything attracting people to the Studios specifically.  You can still do very well if you arrive prior to Park opening, hit the headliners and most popular characters first thing, use FASTPASS throughout the day, and take an afternoon break to rest up for dinner and Fantasmic.  However, most people will want to take advantage of the low crowds at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom and hold off on Hollywood Studios for a more recommended day.

Magic Kingdom is our best choice as far as crowds are concerned.  This may seem like an odd statement, considering that the operating hours are just 9am to 7pm, but that’s precisely why crowds will be so low.  The great majority of Disney vacationers would prefer to visit the Parks when the hours are longer because it seems like more time in the Parks equates to higher value for your money.  That seems logical considering the cost to enter the Parks is the same, regardless if Magic Kingdom is open from 8am to 1am or 9am to 7pm.  However, crowds are so much lower on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party days that you’ll actually be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.  As always, you’ll find the most success if you arrive prior to opening and head straight for Space/Big Thunder/Splash Mountains or Fantasyland for Enchanted Tales with Belle and Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should be able to do just about every major ride and many of the secondary attractions as well.  If you would also like to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes, consider spending a second day at the Magic Kingdom when those nighttime spectaculars are scheduled.  Today, focus on getting the most popular attractions out of the way.  With only one day to spend at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to decide whether seeing Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade is worth spending the day in heavier crowds.  If you’re looking to extend your day without adding Park Hopper or splurging on Mickey’s Christmas Party, you have a few options.  First, you can very easily transfer to the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian resorts for dinner.  From these resorts, you can also see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show that begins at 9:30pm.  The best is the Polynesian Resort’s Beach, which has a direct view of Cinderella Castle and has the music piped in on speakers.  My second favorite view is from the 4th floor observation deck at the Contemporary Resort, where the music is also piped in.  If there are a lot of people outside on the deck, look to the stairs on your left or right.  You can walk up a few floors and stand on the public balconies that overlook the same area.  The view from the boat dock at the Ticket and Transportation Center is also good and relatively easy to get to.  Simply take the Ferry or Monorail over from Magic Kingdom.  At the Grand Floridian, the best views are at the marina outside Gasparilla Grill and the boat dock that services Magic Kingdom.  You can also view the Fireworks show from the beach at Fort Wilderness, though that resort is a bit out of the way by bus or boat.  Because Disney will be running the Resort Monorail through 1am and running buses to and from Magic Kingdom until at least 1am to transport Party guests, you can very easily visit the resorts for free, see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show from a recommended location, and return to your resort at your convenience.  In a perfect world, I would schedule dinner at Kona Café at the Polynesian or The Wave at the Contemporary around 7:30pm.  I’d enjoy a leisurely dinner, tour the resort a bit, and then head out for the Fireworks.

Wednesday December 18

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 11pm (Tentatively Recommended for Nighttime Entertainment)

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 8pm and 10pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

It’s the busiest day of the week at Animal Kingdom.  The morning Extra Magic Hour will attract the bulk of the Disney resort crowd and there’s no evening Extra Magic Hours to send guests in two different directions.  While the nighttime entertainment at Magic Kingdom helps, it won’t pull enough people away to make Animal Kingdom less crowded than other days during the week.  Avoid it unless you’re certainly that you’ll arrive by 7:40am to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour or simply can’t visit another day.

Epcot is highly recommended and your best choice if you have other plans for Hollywood Studios.  We have the Main Street Electrical Parade pulling people towards Magic Kingdom and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios continuing to draw crowds.  Animal Kingdom will also be more popular with Disney resort guests with the morning Extra Magic Hour  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ or follow a more compartmentalized two-day touring plan if you prefer.  If you arrive later, plan to rely on FASTPASS at Test Track or Soarin’.  Both will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10am due to their popularities and relatively low capacities.  Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway.  Return to Future World after 5pm if you have more to accomplish and to ride/re-ride the headliners with FASTPASS.  It’s also a great day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park.  Magic Kingdom will be a bigger draw with longer hours of operation and Main Street Electrical Parade/Wishes.  Animal Kingdom will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the morning Extra Magic Hour.  Hollywood Studios is going to be busier each of the next two days with the shorts hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  Despite the recommendation, it’s still imperative to arrive prior to Park opening in order to ride Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with short waits.  Arrive at 10:30am with everyone else and you’ll find 60+ minute waits at Toy Story Mania and FASTPASSes that have already run out.  To have the most success, arrive by 8:30am and head straight to Toy Story Mania, followed by Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.  Get through these attractions early in the morning or with FASTPASS and you have little to worry about for the rest of the day, other than keeping an eye on the time to make all of those scheduled stage shows.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should have no trouble riding any of the major attractions a second time.  Also consider prioritizing the Toy Story character meet across from Toy Story Midway Mania or Phineas/Ferb in the Streets of America if you have interest in meeting either.  Both characters will see afternoon waits in the 20 to 45 minute range and they don’t offer FASTPASS.  The Osborne Lights are turned on between 6pm and 6:15pm.  Find a spot near the small stage in the middle of the Streets of America around 5:50pm if you’d like to see the lighting ceremony.  Otherwise, the Lights are left on for an hour after official close.  Arrive in the area about ten minutes before close and enjoy the Lights as crowds wane more and more as it gets later in the evening.  For Fantasmic, you’ll want to arrive about 60 minutes early to guarantee good seats together for the first show.  If that sounds like it’s about 30 minutes too long, consider the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the Fantasmic theater.  It will still require you to arrive at least 30 minutes early, or you run the risk of Disney opening the reserved section up to the general population, but it saves the stress of having to decide when it’s time to line up and decreases the overall wait.  The Fantasmic Dining Package makes the most sense on the Disney Dining Plan because it costs the same one table service credit at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano or Hollywood & Vine and two table service credits at Hollywood Brown Derby that you would pay otherwise.  Plus, it includes the appetizer, which you normally wouldn’t receive on the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re not interested in the Package or it’s unavailable, do whatever you can to see the 8pm show. It will be less crowded and you won’t have to worry about two large sections reserved for Dining Package users.  While it’s officially a recommended day, arriving prior to Park opening and hitting the headliners first thing is more important than which day you pick.  Arrive at 11am, no matter the recommendation or the overall crowd level, and you’ll be looking at long lines at Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Magic Kingdom is tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there.  We have longer hours of operation and two very rare Main Street Electrical Parades.  Monday will be busier with the evening Extra Magic Hours and this Saturday will be much busier with the longer hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars.  Anyone who wants to see Main Street Electrical Parade and doesn’t have Park Hopper (and many that do) will have to spend most of their day at the Magic Kingdom in order to see the Parade at night.  While the Magic Kingdom may be busier than other days this week, many people do want to see the Parade and Wishes Fireworks show and this is your best opportunity to do both.  Ideally, you would Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon or early evening, after spending the majority of your day at a Park that’s recommended higher.  This way, you can enjoy short lines and low crowds and still see the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectaculars.  Without Park Hopper, you’ll want to arrive prior to 9am and head straight for the most popular attractions on your itinerary.  The 9am to 11am timeframe is always the best time to tour, regardless of overall crowd level or what day you visit.  You’ll be able to get a lot done in those first two or three hours, but crowds will begin to build around 11am and will continue to be moderately heavy through 9pm.  Plan to move on to some of the less popular attractions in the afternoon and/or take a lengthy afternoon break when crowds are at their highest.  You can then return to the Magic Kingdom around 5pm for dinner, Main Street Electrical Parade, and Wishes.  This is always the second best plan of attack (second to only the evening Park Hop) when you’re trying to see evening shows that aren’t scheduled often enough. The late evening will also see lower crowds. Return to Fantasyland after 10pm to find much lower waits than the afternoon.  Overall, Magic Kingdom is recommended if you tour during the recommended times and make efficient use of the morning and FASTPASS.  It will be more crowded in the afternoon than several other days this week.  You’ll want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date if all you care about is low crowds.  For the Main Street Electrical Parade, I recommend staking out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the later Parade.  Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street and the second Parade is less crowded because so many families leave after Wishes, if they even make it that far. Tomorrow would be less crowded overall, even with the morning Extra Magic Hour complication.  Friday would be better than either day.

Thursday December 19

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Not Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is not expressly recommended, though it won’t be a terrible day there.  The morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom won’t draw nearly the same number of people as usual with the short hours of operation and lack of evening entertainment during regular Park hours.  We also don’t have evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled anywhere.  You can still do well by arriving prior to Park opening and taking care of the main priorities first thing in the morning, but it will be busier than the many recommended days during the week.  Most people will want to take advantage of the better days at Epcot or Magic Kingdom.

Epcot is our most recommended Park.  Disney resort guests will be looking to tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours and most off-site visitors will have visited earlier in the week.  The only problem is the lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  With the morning Extra Magic Hour there as well, we will have more Disney resort guests than usual looking to visit one of the other theme parks.  Luckily, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will see the brunt of that.  Plan to arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  You may also want to take a more compartmentalized two-day approach, which gives you the benefit of enjoying the lowest possible crowds in both Future World and World Showcase each day.  If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am, beginning with the boat rides in Mexico and Norway.  These are the only two attractions in World Showcase that will see wait times.  Luckily, FASTPASSes for Maelstrom are plentiful and you’ll be able to grab FASTPASSes with a return time of just 40 minutes in the future in case the posted wait time is 20+ minutes or you’d like to ride two or three times in the late afternoon or evening.  Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning.  Most people will have moved on to World Showcase.  Keep in mind that most Future World attractions close at 7pm.  Usually only Soarin’, Test Tack, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, Character Spot, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends continue operating from 7pm – 9pm.  Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

With no evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom, short hours at Magic Kingdom, no evening Extra Magic Hours anywhere, and nothing special happening at Epcot or Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios is going to be busier than recommended days during the week.  Plus, it’s later in the week, which means most people on a weeklong vacation will already have visited Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they’ll be looking to spend a day at one of Disney World’s less popular theme parks.  With nothing specific drawing people to the Studios, it’s not going to be crazy crowded, but it is going to be busier than other recommended days during the week and should be avoided if possible.

Magic Kingdom is recommended today, which is rare for a day with a morning Extra Magic Hour attached.  However, the 9am to 7pm operating schedule and Mickey’s Very Merry Party in the evening make the Magic Kingdom significantly less crowded.  While the Extra Magic Hours schedule is a major deciding factor for Disney resort guests because many of them feel like it’s Disney’s way of dictating where they belong each day, the short hours will be a bigger turn off.  Over the past several years, Thursdays with a morning Extra Magic Hour and a 7pm close have not been much busier than other Mickey’s Party dates over the course of the week.  Days with longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment remain much more popular.  In other words, the morning Extra Magic Hour will attract some Disney resort guests, but the short hours of operation and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios will cause many of them to head elsewhere.  Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a Monday, Wednesday, and/or Saturday.  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, you can have a huge amount of success if you arrive by 7:40am and head straight for Fantasyland or other priorities.  You should have no trouble riding all Fantasyland attractions in the first hour and you can move to the headlining Mountain rides or popular characters after that.  If you aren’t Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t arrive until after 9am, head straight for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland where you should find short standby waits at most attractions.  Tomorrow will be slightly less crowded overall.  If you’re not Extra Magic Hours eligible or don’t plan to arrive until after 9am, then Friday would be the better choice.

Friday December 20

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9:30pm – 11:30pm

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended, though it isn’t the best day of the week there.  Most people will want to take advantage of the lower crowds at Magic Kingdom, but Animal Kingdom is certainly a viable alternative.  If you’re trying to decide whether to visit Magic Kingdom/Animal Kingdom today or tomorrow, then I would go with Magic Kingdom today and Animal Kingdom tomorrow.  That way, locals are much less of a concern.  The main problem with Animal Kingdom is that Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and doesn’t offer evening entertainment of any kind during regular Park hours.  Most casual vacationers will avoid it because of that and they’ll naturally head to one of the other three major theme parks.  Luckily, Epcot’s evening Extra Magic Hours are always popular and will draw a lot of Disney resort guests.  Hollywood Studios will remain busy with the decent operating hours and Fantasmic.  To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing.  After that, move on to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl/DINOSAUR, visit the characters, or see the first Festival of the Lion King and/or Finding Nemo the Musical. Keep in mind that crowds disperse after the 3:45pm Parade.  If you couldn’t get to some of the attraction earlier in the day, stay through until 6pm because waits will only decrease from 4:30pm through close.

We’ll want to avoid Epcot.  Its evening Extra Magic Hours will lure the majority of Disney resort guests, which will lengthen waits times at the attractions for the entire afternoon and evening.  Epcot is almost always at its busiest and lines are the longest when it has evening Extra Magic Hours.  This is due to the fact that many Disney resort guests head to whichever Park has Extra Magic Hours, even if they don’t plan to take advantage of them.  Without Park Hopper, Disney resort guests must stay in the Park with Extra Magic Hours for the entire day.  The increased crowds lead to longer lines, heavier congestion in common areas, and an overall less pleasant touring experience.  I would urge you to visit a different Park.  If you want to head to Epcot today, despite my strong objections, your best chance to ride the headlining rides is from 9am-11am.  Most Disney resort guests will sleep in and arrive around lunch in anticipation of staying until 10-11pm.  The morning will be an excellent time to tour Epcot, but you’ll probably want to Park Hop elsewhere after lunch or you’ll be stuck in significantly larger-than-usual crowds.  You might also consider an afternoon break from 2pm-6pm when crowds will be at their largest.  You could then return in the early evening for dinner and Extra Magic Hours.  Alternatively, you could also Park Hop over in the evening for Extra Magic Hours, provided you’re aware of how busy it will be.  The last hour of Extra Magic Hours is always the least crowded, so plan to stay until 11pm and head back to Soarin’ and Test Track after 10pm.  Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended.  The major problem is the early close and lack of evening entertainment at Magic Kingdom.  When Magic Kingdom isn’t attracting a lot of people, we can have 30,000+ people looking to visit a different theme park.  Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with the evening Extra Magic Hours, but that won’t do much to sway the sizable off-site contingent.  With nothing specific attracting guests to the Studios, you can certainly make today work by following the tried and true advice.  Arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  You may also want to prioritize the Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania or Phineas/Ferb near Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano because wait times can hit 30+ minutes and FASTPASS isn’t an option.  Your other two ride priorities are Tower of Terror and Star Tours, but both are easier to FASTPASS in the afternoon and won’t see wait times anywhere near as high as Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Nearly every casual vacationer prefers visiting Magic Kingdom when it’s open later and offers nighttime entertainment during regular Park hours.  With the “short” hours of operation, most people will be looking to visit another Park and save Magic Kingdom for tomorrow.  Take advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and taking care of your priorities first thing.  Most people will want to start with Enchanted Tales with Belle, one of the Mountains, a low capacity attraction like Astro Orbiter, or character that doesn’t offer FASTPASS.  While the day may seem “short,” I can assure you that ten hours in a theme park is plenty of time to experience a lot, especially with low crowds and short waits.  Stay through 7pm because crowds only get lower from 4pm to 6pm.  After 6pm, more and more Party goers will arrive, but they generally congregate on Main Street awaiting the start of their event rather than clogging up lines at the attractions.  Be advised that the special characters for the Party come out right at 7pm.  If you have young kids that may be upset if they see characters that they can’t meet, be at the exit by 6:50pm.  If you’d like to elongate your evening, consider a meal at one of the resorts connected by the monorail.  I like to book Kona Café around 7:30pm and then pop out to the Polynesian Beach to watch the Fireworks.  You can easily return to Magic Kingdom later and hop on a bus or boat back to your resort.

Saturday December 21

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom comes recommended.  We don’t have Extra Magic Hours or special events to attract Disney vacationers of any sort.  Magic Kingdom will be attracting significant crowds with its long hours of operation and both nighttime spectaculars and Hollywood Studios will be popular with the morning Extra Magic Hour and Fantasmic.  We also had two morning Extra Magic Hours earlier in the week and another on Monday to appeal to the sizable Disney resort contingent.  To take full advantage of the low crowd level, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  Get those two attractions out of the way early and the only real concerns are getting to Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical.  You would be in the best shape if you could get to the first or last show of the day as well as over to DinoLand USA before 10:30am when lines begin to build at DINOSAUR and Primeval Whirl.  You may also want to prioritize the most popular characters.  Use FASTPASS throughout the day and you should have no trouble experiencing just about everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in just one day.  Finally, keep in mind that crowds disperse shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and it’s usually a great time to return to the major attractions from 5pm through close.

Epcot is our best Park to visit.  Last night’s evening Extra Magic Hours will have been wildly popular with Disney resort guests and they will be nowhere near Epcot today, especially in the morning.  Take full advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track followed by Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  Move up to World Showcase as close to 11am as possible, beginning with the water rides in Mexico and Norway, to stay ahead of the incoming crowds for as long as possible.  It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended, thanks to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract Disney resort guests and a later close than any day over the previous week.  You can have success from 8am – 10am if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, but the afternoon and evening are going to be busier than just about any day this week.  Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or plan to arrive by 7:30am to take advantage of low crowds in the morning.

It’s going to be an extremely busy day at Magic Kingdom. We’re coming off two less busy days in a row with the Christmas Party and short hours of operation. Today, we have much longer operating hours, which will attract most casual vacationers just finishing up a vacation. And we also have the largest crowds of the year descending for the Christmas holiday. You can do well from 8am – 11am and 10pm – 1am, but the afternoon and early evening are going to be extremely crowded. You either want to take a lengthy afternoon break or plan to visit the least popular attractions during that time period. If you’re just arriving, the next week is just going to get more crowded. You may want to visit Magic Kingdom today because the overall crowd level is lower, which means fewer people in Magic Kingdom even with its non-recommended status. Hit the Park hard very early or very late and you’ll find short waits, but the afternoon is going to be slammed.

Sunday December 22

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 8pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 10pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 1am – 3am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended. Most people arriving today for a Christmas trip won’t be interested in heading to Animal Kingdom first thing and we don’t have Extra Magic Hours to lure Disney resort guests.  Take advantage by arriving prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest (or follow a touring plan).  You should be able to ride both attractions multiple times during the day, especially with the help of FASTPASS in the late morning and afternoon.  The 8am – 10am timeframe will be particularly excellent as few people arrive prior to 8am for a regular 8am open.  You may also want to prioritize the characters in the morning when wait times are short.   If you don’t arrive early in the morning, use FASTPASS throughout the day and/or head to the headliners you missed or would like to ride again after 6:30pm. A lot of people leave after the 3:45pm Parade, which lowers waits at just about every attraction until close. Note that Kilimanjaro Safaris will stop operating close to dusk – most likely on or before 5pm. Check your Times Guide to verify because you need to be in line no later than that time. The Jungle Treks and Rafiki’s Planet Watch also close before the regular close. Hit DinoLand after 6pm and Asia after 7pm to find significantly shorter waits than the afternoon.   After you complete your itinerary, you might consider Park Hopping over to Epcot for dinner and Illuminations, Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic, or Magic Kingdom for a few evening attractions, Wishes, Main Street Electrical Parade, and/or Evening Extra Magic Hours.  Without Park Hopper, consider transferring to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at one of their three excellent restaurants – Boma, Sanaa, or Jiko.  The resort is amazing and there is a fun and free public observatory where you can look at the same private savannas that many guests are paying a premium to have right outside their rooms.  Nighttime trips to Downtown Disney and the BoardWalk are also popular and both have great dining and shopping “opportunities.”

Epcot isn’t recommended due to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will attract enough Disney resort guests to make it busier than several other days this week.  While the morning Extra Magic Hour will be an excellent time to tour, Epcot will get progressively busier as more and more Disney resort guests arrive.  You could have success if you arrive at 7:15am, head straight for the headliners, and move up to the World Showcase around 11am, but afternoon crowds will be heavier than recommended days and you’ll likely want to Park Hop elsewhere or take a break around 2pm. Tomorrow is a better day to visit.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park today.  We’re in between yesterday’s moderately popular morning Extra Magic Hour and we have another tomorrow.  Both days will be more popular with the on-site resort guests.  Like any other day, it’s more important to arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster than it is to simply pick the “right day.”  Once you get through the two headliners, you’re more or less golden.  You’ll still want to hit Tower of Terror and then Star Tours immediately after or plan to use FASTPASS later in the day.  Standby waits for Tower of Terror will be 60 minutes in the afternoon with the heavy overall crowd level.  There’s simply no way around that when crowds are this heavy.  After those four attractions, it’s just a matter of making it to the Studios’ high capacity shows and attractions.  You may also want to prioritize characters that will have longer afternoon waits.  The Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Midway Mania tend to have the longest waits in Hollywood Studios.  Phineas & Ferb are also popular. They greet guests near Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano and across from the exit to Muppet Vision 3D.  Check the week’s Times Guide to verify appearance times.  Two other popular characters appear in the Animation Building in the Animation Courtyard.  Sorcerer Mickey in particular has long afternoon waits and The Incredibles characters also tend to have decent lines.  Since both characters meet indoors and their lines aren’t usually over 20 minutes long, you should be able to find them with decent waits in the evening if you have other morning priorities.  Finally, you’ll find some characters in the morning near Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat that won’t appear later in the afternoon.  Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Chip, Dale, Friends of Winnie the Pooh, Goofy, and Pluto are all common, but no specific character is guaranteed to appear.  For Fantasmic, I highly recommend the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater if you’re interested in the 6:30pm show.  On the Disney Dining Plan, it costs the same one table service credit at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano or Hollywood & Vine that you would pay without the Package.  At Hollywood Brown Derby, the cost is the same two credits.  In addition to the Fantasmic tickets, you also receive an appetizer, which you wouldn’t normally receive on the Dining Plan.  Out of pocket, it “makes sense” if you order the more expensive items on the menu and take advantage of the relatively stress-free way to see Fantasmic.   While the Package tickets will still require you to arrive at least 20 minutes early, it’s better than the 60+ minutes you’re looking at without the Package.  Also consider taking an afternoon break to rest up for Fantasmic when crowds peak between 1pm and 5pm or so.  You may need to schedule it around your Fantasmic Dining Package meal time if that’s the direction you intend to go in.  If you’re not interested in the Package or it isn’t available, plan to see the 8pm show.  It won’t require as long of a wait and you won’t have to deal with two large sections reserved for Dining Package users.  Still, arrive 30+ minutes early to secure seats.  As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the middle sections, but be prepared to arrive an hour or more early for those seats.  Any closer and you run the risk of getting wet and it’s more difficult to see what’s happening on the water.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busy with a ton of people arriving yesterday and today for a weeklong Christmas vacation.  Most of these people will want to head to Magic Kingdom immediately.  That’s why we see both the morning and evening Extra Magic Hours attached.  It will help distribute the crowds over the course of a longer day.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to ease the crowd level from 10:30am – 10pm.  You can have a lot of success from 7am – 10am or 10pm – 3am, but the late morning, afternoon, and early evening are going to extremely crowded.  Hold off until Tuesday unless you’re planning to visit during the recommended times or simply want to enjoy Magic Kingdom’s holiday ambiance (with 100,000 other people).

Monday December 23

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 8pm (Highly Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 9am – 9:30 (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 10pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended.  Hollywood Studios will be a bigger draw with the morning Extra Magic Hour and Magic Kingdom will be popular with those that arrived yesterday and prefer to spend their first day at Disney World’s most popular theme park.  Despite the recommendation, we’re still in the midst of the highest crowds of the year.  Arrive by 7:30am and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing.  After that, move on to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, and plan to see the first Finding Nemo the Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King.  Those shows are popular and fill up fast later in the day.  You may also want to prioritize the most popular characters.  If you couldn’t arrive early, stay through 8pm because crowds will only diminish after 6pm with the lowest crowds in the final hour.  Check your Times Guide if you’re planning to ride Safaris late because it will stop operating close to dusk.  Use FASTPASS diligently throughout the day and return to the standby lines to ride any major attractions after 7pm when lines are shorter.  Overall, you can have a lot of success if you tour efficiently between 8am – 10am and/or 6pm – 8pm, but Animal Kingdom will be busy in the late morning and afternoon with the high overall crowd level.  That isn’t much of a concern because we know what we’re doing.

Epcot is the most recommended Park.  Yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour and tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more popular with Disney resort guests who believe the Extra Magic Hours schedule is Disney’s way of telling them where they belong each day.  Tomorrow and Christmas will also be more popular for the holiday.  Today is your best opportunity this week to tour in low crowds relative to the days around it.  But Epcot will still be slammed with the heaviest crowds of the year resort-wide.  It’s imperative that you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ first thing in the morning or follow a more compartmentalized two-day touring plan.  Move up to World Showcase beginning at 11am with the water rides in Mexico and Norway and you’ll be in excellent shape to enjoy the lowest crowds all day.  Return to Future World after 5pm when more people have moved up into World Showcase.  It’s an excellent night to stay for IllumiNations, but be prepared to find spots 60 minutes in advance with the heavy crowds, despite the recommendation.  There’s no way around that this week.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended.  We have the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting the predictable Disney resort guest crowd.  In addition, most casual vacationers will be looking to spend the next two days at Epcot and Magic Kingdom and will be looking to visit another Park today.  The Studios’ long hours of operation and plentiful evening entertainment will be more attractive than Animal Kingdom earlier in the week.  If you’re Extra Magic Hours eligible and arrive by 6:30am, you can do extremely well from 7am – 10am, but it’s going to be busier than recommended days from then on.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busy.  The morning Extra Magic Hour is not a major concern because one is scheduled every day to help spread out crowds and give Disney resort guests an extra hour to tour.  Even though most won’t make use of the extra hour, it’s a powerful marketing tool.  The problem is the Christmas holiday on Thursday and the number of people that will be arriving on Sunday for a traditional weeklong holiday vacation.  Many prefer to visit Magic Kingdom on their first full day to experience the “magic” right off the bat.  That’s going to cause the Park to be busier than tomorrow, which is one of the best days of the week to visit.  You can still do very well from 7am – 10am and in the late evening, from 10pm – 1am, but the late morning through Wishes is going to be extremely crowded.  Keep in mind that arriving early and touring intelligently is more important than picking the “right day,” particularly when overall crowds are this heavy.  You may want to visit Magic Kingdom on the day that you can arrive earliest or stay latest.  While the afternoon/evening tomorrow will be less busy on a recommended day, it’s still going to be much busier than most other days over the course of the year.

Tuesday December 24

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9:30pm – 11:30pm

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 10pm (Highly Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Most Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is not recommended.  It’s hosting its first morning Extra Magic Hour in about a week and doesn’t have another until the 27th.  This will attract a ton of resort guests that are looking to visit another Park today before heading to Magic Kingdom tomorrow.  Casual vacationers won’t be far behind. Tomorrow is far and away the best day of the week to visit and most people will want to take advantage of the (relatively speaking) lower crowds at Magic Kingdom.

Epcot is not recommended.  With the Candlelight Processional and Christmas Storytellers, Epcot is naturally busy on Christmas Eve.  Add the evening Extra Magic Hours to attract the 100,000+ guests staying on property and you have a recipe for a very busy day.  Tomorrow won’t be any better, but yesterday and Friday will be much more tolerable.  You can have success from 8am – 9:30am and 10:30pm – 11:30pm, but the rest of the day is going to be extremely busy.

Hollywood Studios is highly recommended.  We don’t have Extra Magic Hours to attract Disney resort guests and the Osborne Lights won’t specifically attract additional guests.  Epcot and Animal Kingdom will be bigger draws with the predictable resort contingent that follows the Extra Magic Hours schedule like it’s where they’re supposed to be each day.  Finally, we’re in between yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour and tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours.  With just six rides across the entire Park, it’s essential to arrive by 7:15am to head straight to Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first thing.  Your other ride priorities are Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  After that, focus on the high capacity attractions and stage shows.  With the high overall crowd level, plan to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before the start of shows to secure good seats.  Most, if not all, will fill to capacity.  For Fantasmic, consider the Dining Package to guarantee seats or plan to see the 10pm show, which will be much less crowded.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park, even though it will be far from empty with the high overall crowd level and morning Extra Magic Hour.  The morning Extra Magic Hour isn’t a concern because it’s offered every day this week.  Tomorrow will be much busier for Christmas Day.  This week, smart touring trumps picking the “right” Park to visit.  .  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, you can have an incredible amount of success from 7am – 10am.   Plan to arrive at the entrance by 6:40am, head straight for the priorities on your list, and rely on FASTPASS at the major attractions in the afternoon.  Most people will want to start with Enchanted Tales with Belle, Peter Pan’s Flight, or a priority in Tomorrowland like Astro Orbiter or Space Mountain.  If you’re not Extra Magic Hours eligible, plan to arrive by 7:40am and you should still find low crowds in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  If you’re interested in Enchanted Tales with Belle, plan to put it off for the very end of the night and you’ll be right back on schedule.  If you arrive around noon and want to ride Space Mountain in the standby line, you’re going to run into 100 minute waits no matter which day you visit.  There’s simply no way around that when the overall crowd level is so high.  I also recommend taking an afternoon break back at your resort to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and hop in the pools (weather permitting).  This is the busiest part of the day.  Over Christmas, you can expect 60 minute waits at Pirates of the Caribbean, 150 minute waits at Space Mountain, and 90 minute waits at Peter Pan’s Flight by 2pm.  Return in the evening for dinner, some late night attractions, to enjoy Wishes, and see the 11pm Main Street Electrical Parade in Frontierland or Liberty Square.  Many families leave soon after the first Parade and Wishes and lines in Fantasyland will be much shorter than they were in the afternoon.  If you’re not morning people, plan to stay through 1am.  Visit Tomorrowland for Space Mountain, Astro Orbiter, and Buzz Lightyear from 11pm – 12am and finish in Fantasyland with Journey of the Little Mermaid, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight.  Remember that Disney will let you get in line and ride any attraction so long as you enter the queue by the stated close.

Wednesday December 25

Christmas Day

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 10pm (Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 10pm – 12am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  With no special events, no evening entertainment, and nothing obviously “Christmas-y,” going on, few people will have Animal Kingdom on their radars.  While it won’t be empty with the high overall crowd level, it will be the least crowded day there this week and the easiest overall touring experience.  As always, you’ll have the most success if you arrive by 7:30am and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing.  Move on to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR or the first Festival of the Lion King and/or Finding Nemo next and you’ll be in great shape for the rest of the day.  You may want to eat snacks over the course of the day and plan to transfer to a Disney resort for lunch when crowds peak around 1pm or 2pm.  Lunch at Grand Floridian Café, The Wave, or Kona Café would be laidback and give you an opportunity to explore some fun resorts.  Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge or Sanaa at Kidani Village would also be good choices.  On the other hand, you could sleep in and plan to arrive around 4pm.  A lot of the morning crowd leaves shortly after the 3:45pm Parade and crowds will continue to disperse as it gets later into the evening.  Stay through 9pm if you couldn’t arrive earlier in the day or there’s still more you want to accomplish as lines will only get shorter after 7pm.  After Animal Kingdom closes, you could head to a resort for a drink and to check out the decorations.  You can also see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show that begins at 10pm from several locations around Disney property.  The best is the Polynesian Resort’s Beach, which has a direct view of Cinderella Castle and has the music piped in on speakers.  The view from the boat dock at the Ticket and Transportation Center, marina or boat dock at Grand Floridian, and 4th floor observation deck at the Contemporary Resort are also recommended.  You can also view the Fireworks show from the beach at Fort Wilderness, though that resort is a bit out of the way.  Because Disney will be running the Resort Monorail through 2:00am and running buses to and from Magic Kingdom until at least 2am, you can very easily tour the resorts for free, see the Holiday Fireworks show from a recommended location, and return to your resort at your convenience.

Epcot is going to be slammed today for a number of reasons.  First, casual Disney advice is to head to Epcot when crowds are obviously going to be heavy because there’s more physical space for humans to occupy than the other Parks.  While this is true, Epcot also has the fewest major attractions.  The lines at Soarin’ and Test Track will be well over 120 minutes by 11am and waits at what would normally be considered “secondary attractions” will also be much higher than just about any day other than New Year’s Eve.  Finally, if and when Magic Kingdom does close to capacity, Disney employees will tell motorists to head to Epcot instead.  I don’t see a whole lot of opportunity for fun unless you arrive at least 60 minutes prior to Park opening and head straight to Soarin’ and Test Track.  You could conceivably spend some time in the Seas Pavilion and Innoventions in the morning and move up to World Showcase immediately at 11am in order to stay ahead of the crowds, but there will be nowhere to hide come 1pm.  If you are planning to do the Candlelight Processional, I would strongly urge you to book the Dining Package that will guarantee everyone on the reservation a seat.  Give yourself at least 35 minutes to make your way to your World Showcase restaurant if you’re arriving at the main entrance and head over to the Dining Package line at American Garden Theaters at least 30 minutes early to secure seats.  Without the Dining Package, you’re looking at a two-hour-plus wait to get seats for the Candlelight Processional.  Overall, there isn’t a whole lot of upside to visiting Epcot unless you’re satisfied with doing a limited amount of stuff, plan very wisely, and are willing to wait.

Hollywood Studios is recommended, though the evening Extra Magic Hours will attract some Disney resort guests.  Animal Kingdom is the best Park to visit, but if you have no interest in it or taking a day off to relax, then Hollywood Studios is the best place for you.  Tour efficiently from 8am – 10am with the headliners and/or 10pm – 12am to have the most success.  Even with the recommendation, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will hit triple digit waits during the day, including 180 minutes at Toy Story and 150 at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. There’s no way around that fact when crowds are this heavy.  The waits just won’t arrive as early or stay that high for as long as other days this week.  For evening Extra Magic Hours, save Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and finally Toy Story Mania for the final hour when most people will be long gone.  Remember that you can enter any line right up until official close and ride no matter what the posted wait is.

This will be one of the top five busiest days of the year at the Magic Kingdom.  With the added capacity in New Fantasyland, a capacity closure may not be necessary, but it’s going to be close.  The 7am – 10am timeframe and 11pm – 1am timeframe will be relatively good times to tour, but it’s going to be mobbed in the afternoon.  If you are planning to visit, you’ll want to get in and get out.  If you would like to extend your day a bit, consider transferring to a Monorail Deluxe Resort for lunch.  I recommend Kona Café at the Polynesian and The Wave at the Contemporary.  Across the lake via boat are also Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge and Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Cabins.  These resorts are also beautifully decorated for the Christmas holiday and you really can make a day of just perusing them and checking out all of the fun decorations.  Otherwise, Magic Kingdom is going to be “crazy busy” and should be avoided unless you’re willing to put up with the madness.

Thursday December 26

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Recommended)

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 10:30pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 10:30pm – 12:30am

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Most Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom comes recommended, though yesterday would have been better.  Luckily, the next five days feature a morning Extra Magic Hour that will all be more popular with Disney resort guests.  The only problem is that a lot of people will have spent the last two or three days at Epcot and Magic Kingdom for the holiday and will be looking elsewhere today.  Hollywood Studios will prove busier though.  Overall, you can do very well at Animal Kingdom if you arrive by 7:30am and hit the Park hard in the first two hours.  Crowds will also ease from 7pm through close.  Stay through close and return to the headliners in the final hour if you couldn’t get to them earlier in the day.  You could also do 8am – 12pm, take an afternoon break, and return around 6pm.  That would get you a solid seven hours in the Park and you would avoid the busiest part of the day.

Epcot is not recommended.  While we’re coming off a busy day yesterday for Christmas, a lot of Disney resort guests will be headed to Magic Kingdom instead with their sights on today’s evening Extra Magic Hours.  You can do well from 8am – 10am and from 11:30pm – 12:30am, but it’s going to be busier than recommended days in between those timeframes.  Most people will want to take advantage of a better day at Magic Kingdom and save Epcot for tomorrow.

Hollywood Studios will be busy today.  The last two days would have been much less crowded.  We have a ton of people who spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they’ll be looking to head to Hollywood Studios for a bit of crowd-relief, Toy Story Mania, and Fantasmic.  With nothing specific attracting crowds to the Studios, you can still do well if you tour efficiently, particularly from 8am – 10am.  But the rest of the day is going to be extremely busy.  Tomorrow would be better.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park.  We’re coming off a very busy day yesterday with the holiday and today’s morning Extra Magic Hour is nothing out of the ordinary, considering one is scheduled every day this week.  Tomorrow will also be busier with the rarer and more popular evening Extra Magic Hours.  Most Disney resort guests will be headed to Epcot and a lot of off-site visitors will have visited Magic Kingdom over the last few days and will be looking elsewhere.  Despite lower crowds than other days this week, Magic Kingdom will still be crowded in the afternoon and for the evening entertainment.  We have two outstanding times to tour – 7am to 10:30am (with morning Extra Magic Hour) and 11pm to 1am.  Take advantage by touring during at least one of these times.  Even with the recommendation, the afternoon is going to be busy with the high overall crowd level.  You’ll have the most success if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Fantasyland or Tomorrowland to take care of the attractions that will have much longer afternoon waits –  Enchanted Tales with Belle, Peter Pan’s Flight, Winnie the Pooh, Space Mountain, Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin would all be excellent choices if they’re on your itinerary.  Use FASTPASS throughout the morning and early afternoon and you’ll be in good shape when the crowds get heavier after 11am.  If you’ll be attending this evening’s nighttime spectaculars, you’ll most likely want to take a sizable break from 1pm to 6pm or so when crowds peak.  Wait times will be long at most attractions during this time period and it’s a great opportunity to return to your resort to relax.  You’ll also have time to see the 12:30pm Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.  Return in the evening for Wishes and the 11pm Main Street Electrical Parade.  You may want to arrive a little earlier to grab dinner and ride some attractions with FASTPASS.  The 11pm Main Street Electrical Parade will be much less crowded than the 9pm Parade.  Scope out a spot along the Parade route in Liberty Square or Frontierland because those areas offer just as good of a view as Main Street and require a much shorter wait.  Still, plan to find your spots at least 15 minutes before the Parade steps off.  The late night hours are also a viable time to tour.  Magic Kingdom will empty out significantly after the Wishes Fireworks show at 10pm. Visit Space Mountain, Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Buzz Lightyear from 11pm to 12am and then hit Fantasyland for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Enchanted Tales with Belle in the final hour to find much shorter waits than the afternoon.  Overall, you can have a lot of success today even with the high overall crowd level.  Arriving early, touring efficiently, using FASTPASS, and taking a sizable afternoon break are the keys.

Friday December 27

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 10:30pm (Most Recommended)

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Highly Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 1am – 3am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is not recommended.  While we haven’t been too concerned about the Extra Magic Hours schedule, we’ve only had one at Animal Kingdom since December 19th.  Disney resort guests are more likely to visit when Animal Kingdom is hosting Extra Magic Hours.  Because of its limited amount of space and few attractions, it only takes a few thousand extra people to substantially boost wait times.  And we’re going to have far more than a few thousand extras in tow today.  We also have a lot of people planning to visit Epcot and Magic Kingdom for New Year’s Eve and they’ll be looking to do the other theme parks before that.  While Magic Kingdom will be pulling a lot of people with the morning/evening Extra Magic Hours combo, I don’t see any upside to visiting Animal Kingdom today over past recommended days unless you’re planning to arrive by 6:30am and be out of there by noon.  Animal Kingdom is going to be the most recommended Park on December 31st and you should be looking in that direction if a past recommended date doesn’t work.

Epcot is our most recommended Park.  Yesterday’s evening Extra Magic Hours will have been much more popular with Disney resort guests and they won’t be visiting again today, especially in the morning.  With that being said, it is still imperative that you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission: Space, and Soarin’.  You’ll be in outstanding shape if you can get those attractions out of the way in the morning or follow one of the two-day touring plans that split these attractions up over two days.  With the 8am open, you should have a solid hour where lines will be short.  To have the most success, head up through the World Showcase beginning at 11am in order to stay ahead of the incoming crowds.  Visiting Maelstrom in Norway and Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico are your best bets unless you have in mind to visit them on another afternoon or late evening.  If you have more you’d like to accomplish in Future World, plan to return after 5pm when most people will have moved on to World Showcase.  It’s also an excellent time to use FASTPASSes.  Finally, it’s a great night to stay for dinner, the Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations.  Still, if you’re planning to see the Candlelight Processional you’ll want to see the 5pm show or consider the Candlelight Processional Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the theater.  Without it, you’re looking at a 90+ minute wait to get decent seats.  That wait may be even longer if the celebrity is particularly popular.  If you don’t necessarily need to have a seat or a clear look at the stage, you can enjoy the music and the narration from outside the American Gardens Theater.  Despite the recommendation, we’re still looking at substantial crowds with the high overall crowd level.  Touring efficiently is the key, but today will be less crowded with slower building crowds and lower peak waits than non-recommended days.

Hollywood Studios is highly recommended. Tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more popular with Disney resort guests and they’ll be headed to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom today.  The 8am to 10am timeframe will be a particularly excellent time to tour.  What you’ll find is that most people don’t arrive until around 10am – 11am, regardless of when a Park opens.  The last two hours of operation will also be good times to tour, though you’ll still want to save the major headliners for the last 60 minutes or so.  A lot of people will be attending the first Fantasmic and then will head back to their resorts.  Today, you’ll want to arrive by 7:20am and take care of Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours first thing in the morning.  Even with the recommendation, standby waits for Toy Story Mania will likely hit triple digits intermittently throughout the day.  With its limited capacity, there’s just no way around that fact.  Ride immediately after Park opening at 8am or plan to use FASTPASS.  Your other morning priority is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which will also have triple digit waits with its popularity and the few other rides available.  After that, head to Tower of Terror and Star Tours next.  Luckily, both of these attractions have higher capacities and move through more people during the day.  Still, Star Tours can hit a 50 minute standby wait and Tower of Terror can easily be 80 to 100 minutes by noon, even with the recommendation.  If you’re interested in character meet and greets, Phineas and Ferb near Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania in Pixar Place, and Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Building usually have the longest waits.  Check your Times Guide to see when they are appearing and try to arrive just before their set begins.  Long lines generally don’t form until the characters appear or nearby attractions get popular.  You’ll also find characters near the Sorcerer’s Hat early in the morning that won’t be available in the afternoon or evening.  They generally include Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Friends of Winnie the Pooh, Chip and Dale, and Pluto, but no specific character is guaranteed.  With the 8am opening, you should be able to hit the major attractions and arrive in time to visit a few of the popular characters with short waits around 9:30am and 10am.  For Fantasmic, I recommend attending the 10pm show unless you’re planning to take advantage of the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section for the 6:30pm show.  You may want to consider this if it’s available and you’re either on the Disney Dining Plan or you can’t make it to the 10pm show.  The cost of the Fantasmic Dining Package is the same one credit you would use at Mama Melrose or Hollywood & Vine and two table service credits at Hollywood Brown Derby.  The Package includes the appetizer, which you wouldn’t normally receive on the Dining Plan, and the tickets to the reserved section of the Theater.  You’ll still need to arrive about 30 minutes early to secure decent seats and be sure that Disney doesn’t open the reserved seating section up to the general population, but it’s better than the 90+ minute wait you’re looking without the Package.  Otherwise, plan to see the 10pm show because it will be much less crowded than the first.  The second show, at 8pm, would also be a better choice without the Dining Package.  Unfortunately with the high overall crowd this week, it will still be popular.  Plan to arrive at least 60 minutes early for the 8pm show or 20 minutes early for the 10pm show to secure decent seats.  Finally, there are two good times to visit the Osborne Lights in the Streets of America.  The best is after 9:45pm.  Disney will keep the Lights on for about an hour after close.  Because most people don’t know this and instinctively head to the exit, the area is much less crowded.  The second best time is from 5:45pm to 6:30pm.  You’ll also have the opportunity to see the Lighting Ceremony featuring Santa Goofy at 6pm.  This takes place in the middle of the Streets of America where you see the stage, presents, toy soldiers and Christmas Trees that aren’t yet lit up.  While the Lighting Ceremony is crowded, the 6:30pm Fantasmic does help pull about 9,000 people away.  Once 7pm hits and Fantasmic is over, thousands of people that just finished watching the show will descend on the area.  Overall, it’s a good day to visit the Studios, but you’ll want to arrive early and tour efficiently.  Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in particular will see long waits from 10:30am through close.

Magic Kingdom is going to be busier than recommended days this week and may close to capacity at some point in the afternoon.  The addition of evening Extra Magic Hours is an attempt to mitigate this fact somewhat, but the 11am – 10pm timeframe is still going to be extremely crowded.  Tomorrow is a better choice, even though it’s a Saturday.  You can still do very well from 7am – 10am or 11pm – 3am.  Both timeframes will see low crowds, particularly from 7am – 8:30am and 12:30am – 3am when lines at most attractions are short to nonexistent.  Plan to visit during one or both of the recommended times or avoid if at all possible.

Saturday December 28

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 10:30pm (Highly Recommended)

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 11pm – 1am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Most Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

With so many above-average days to visit Animal Kingdom in the past few days, there’s really no reason to head in that direction.  The morning Extra Magic Hour won’t be a huge draw, but it certainly doesn’t help.  It’s later in the week, which means most people who are staying through New Year’s will have already visited Magic Kingdom and Epcot and they’ll be looking to visit a different Park before returning over the next couple of days for the New Year’s Eve festivities.  There’s really no upside to visiting today unless you can’t get there any other day or you’re planning to tour from 7am – 11am and/or 7pm – 9pm when crowds are lowert.  From a crowd perspective, December 31st will be much less crowded.  You could conceivably have a successful day if you visit from 7am – 10am and/or 7pm – 9pm, but the afternoon will be much more crowded than recommended days during the week.  Avoid it if possible or be sure to tour efficiently using the suggestions in the touring plans section.

It’s an above-average day at Epcot, all things considered.  We don’t have to worry about Extra Magic Hours attracting Disney resort guests and Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will be bigger draws.  Still, we’re in the midst of the heaviest crowds of the year.  It’s much more important to arrive by 7:15am and hit Soarin’ and Test Track immediately.  Move up through World Showcase right at 11am, starting with Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico and Maelstrom in Norway, to avoid crowds for as long as possible.  You can have a very good day if you tour efficiently in the morning, but it’s going to be a madhouse in Future World from 10am – 6pm.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended, thanks to the evening Extra Magic Hours that will attract a lot of Disney resort guests.  With only six rides, including Great Movie Ride and Studio Backlot Tour, the Studios does not operate with a lot of ride capacity.  Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will have triple digit waits most of the day, with Toy Story topping out around 180 minutes.  Like any day this week, you can do well from 8am – 10am if you arrive by 7:15am.  We have a highly recommended day coming up tomorrow and there isn’t much upside to visiting today unless it’s the only day you can arrive prior to Park opening.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park, though it will still be very busy.  There’s no way around that when crowds are this heavy. Tomorrow is also a great day to visit before the New Year’s Eve crowds show up.  To ultimately have success, you’ll need to tour during one or both of the recommended times – 7am to 11am (with morning Extra Magic Hour) and 11pm to 1am.  The morning remains the best time to tour because crowds are guaranteed to be low.  In the evening, crowds dissipate as the official close approaches.  Plan to hit the popular Fantasyland attractions first and then move on to Tomorrowland and then over to Frontierland.  Should you arrive by 6:45am, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done and also how busy it will be in the afternoon.  You may also want to visit characters that will have long afternoon waits in the morning.  Consider taking a sizable break from 1pm to 7pm or so to rest up for the evening and avoid peak crowds and waits.  A break that begins around 1pm will also give you an opportunity to catch the less crowded Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at 12:30pm.  In the evening, you’ll want to plan to attend the 11pm Main Street Electrical Parade.  It will be much less crowded than the 9pm Parade.  Plan to stake out spots along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square because they are the least crowded, require a shorter wait, and offer a view that is just as good as Main Street.  Finally, the 11pm – 1am timeframe is a viable time to tour in relatively low crowds, especially if you save Tomorrowland for 11pm – 12am and Fantasyland for 12am – 1am.  Most families will be long gone after 11pm, freeing up Enchanted Tales with Belle, Peter Pan’s Flight, Winnie the Pooh, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and most other attractions.  Expect Pan and Pooh to hit 70 to 100 minutes over the course of the day and drop to 10 minutes in the final hour.

Sunday December 29

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 10:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Highly Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Most Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is not recommended, thanks to the morning Extra Magic Hour that will continue to keep it more crowded than recommended days earlier in the week.  December 31st will also be a much better day to visit as Epcot and Magic Kingdom in particular will be slammed all day.  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible, you can still do very well in the morning if you arrive by 6:30am and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing in the morning.  Crowds also thin in the evening and will be lowest after 8pm.  Keep in mind that Kilimanjaro Safaris and the other animal attractions will close much earlier due to darkness.  You can do well in the morning, like you can any other day, but it’s going to be quite busy from 10am – 7pm.

Epcot is recommended, though arriving by 7:30am and taking care of Test Track or Soarin’ in the morning or over the course of two days is more important than simply picking the “right” day.  The bottom line is that Epcot really only has two rides most people get truly excited for.  Soarin’ and Test Track will see 150 minute waits despite the recommendation and it’s imperative that you visit them early in the morning or take advantage of FASTPASS.  Move up to World Showcase at 11am when most people struggle through Future World and you’ll be in excellent shape.  Tomorrow is also a recommended day.  If you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and can arrive by 6:30am to take advantage of it, then tomorrow would be better.  If you prefer to sleep the extra hour or aren’t eligible, then today is better.

Hollywood Studios is highly recommended as we come off a busier day yesterday with the evening Extra Magic Hours attached.  Today is a particularly good day to visit if you’re trying to skip the New Year’s Eve festivities because you can visit the Studios today when it’s less crowded and Animal Kingdom on December 31st when it’s least crowded.  As always, your only opportunities to ride Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with shorts waits are first thing in the morning and with FASTPASS.  Get those two attractions out of the way and your only other ride priorities are Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  With the high overall crowd level, plan to arrive at shows 20 to 30 minutes early to secure good seats together.  For Fantasmic, plan to rely on the Dining Package for the early show or do whatever you can to see the 10pm show, which is the least crowded.  The best viewing locations are in the middle section at least half way up, so you have a nice view of the water and don’t risk getting splashed.  Crowds will also be lighter from 8:30pm through close.  While Studios is going to see high wait times from 10:30am – 7pm, there’s no way around that when overall crowds are so heavy.  Tour efficiently in the morning and evening and you can do very well.  Also keep in mind that you can get in line for any operating attraction right up until close.  So you could get in line for Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster right at 9:55pm and ride, no matter what the posted wait is.  Plenty of buses will be available afterwards as Fantasmic will end around 10:30pm.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park as we look at two much, much busier days.  Tomorrow will be busy for the evening Extra Magic Hours and preview of the New Year’s Eve Fireworks and New Year’s Eve will see some of the heaviest crowds of the year.  Today will still be slammed, but it’s much better than the alternative options.  Like every other day this week, you’ll have the most success from 7am – 11am and 10pm – 1am.  You’ll find relatively light crowds and short lines at most attractions during those timeframes.  Take a break in the afternoon/early evening when it’s slammed and you’ll be in good shape.

Monday December 30

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 10:30pm (Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Most Recommended)

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 1am – 3am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 7pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 8:30pm, Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks: 11:50pm

Animal Kingdom is going to be busier today than it will be tomorrow and is thus not recommended.  Your best theme park to visit tomorrow is overwhelmingly Animal Kingdom because all three of the other Parks are going to be absolutely swamped.  Because most people will be visiting one of the other more popular theme parks with New Year’s Eve festivities tomorrow, more than usual will be headed to Animal Kingdom today instead.  The morning Extra Magic Hour isn’t a big deal, but it doesn’t help.  Overall, tomorrow is a much better choice, particularly because the other Parks will be slammed.  As always, you can do very well from 7am – 9am and 7pm – 9pm, but the late morning and afternoon are going to be crazy.

Epcot is recommended.  Although it is the last night of the Candlelight Processional, it isn’t that big of a concern since it has been running for more than a month.  We’re also looking at the busiest day of the year tomorrow with the extended hours and a New Year’s Eve celebration.  We’re talking 200+ minute waits at Soarin’ and Test Track and 60+ minute waits at Spaceship Earth.  We may even see a 45+ minute wait at Journey into Imagination with Figment at some point during the day.  If you’re at all familiar with Disney World wait times, then you would know this is preposterous, but it’s reality on New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Eve only).  Today, you’ll want to arrive prior to Park opening and hit the headlining attractions first.  In most cases, that means going straight to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission Space, and Soarin’.  If you’re Extra Magic Hours’ eligible, hit Soarin’ and Test Track first thing in the morning.  If you’re not, yesterday would have been a better day to visit because you won’t be dealing with the people that arrived in time to enter the Park early.  If you’re visiting Epcot over two days, you may be able to follow one of the compartmentalized plans that visits about half of Epcot each day.  To have the most success, head up through World Showcase at 11am to stay in front of the crowds.  If you’re planning to see the Candlelight Processional, I highly recommend attending the first show of the evening at 5:00pm.  Otherwise, you’ll want to strongly consider the Candlelight Processional Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater and a guaranteed viewing location for IllumiNations.  With the high overall crowd level, Epcot will still be crowded, so it is imperative that you arrive early or you face the same long waits everyone else arriving at 10:30am will find.  Consider taking a break in the afternoon or visit the least popular or high capacity attractions like the Seas Pavilion, American Adventure, Impressions de France, Captain EO, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and the like.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park and the only one without Extra Magic Hours.  We have a popular New Year’s Eve celebration tomorrow, though it is decidedly less popular than the parties going on at Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The only thing we have to worry about is the number of people who will be headed to Epcot and Magic Kingdom tomorrow and will be looking elsewhere today.  However, it’s likely that most of these people will have already visited Hollywood Studios, especially with its lack of Extra Magic Hours today.  As usual, the best times to tour are 8am – 10am and 8:30pm – 11pm.  Arrive prior to Park opening and head straight to Toy Story Mania.  Then ride Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours after that.  You’re in good shape once you get through those attractions and you’ll be able to slow down and enjoy the Studios’ less popular attractions and high capacity shows.  With the 8am opening, you should also have enough time to ride the major attractions before it’s time to head over to a popular character before they begin appearing.  You might want to visit Phineas & Ferb across from the exit to Muppet Vision 3D, the Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania, or Sorcerer Mickey and the Incredibles in the Animation Building.  Each of these characters will see 30+ minute waits throughout the late morning and afternoon, so it’s important to meet them early in the morning if they are of interest.  If that isn’t possible, return in the last hour that they’re meeting guests. Keep in mind that it’s going to be far from empty with the high overall crowd level.  Careful planning and arriving early is still the key to success.  You’ll find long lines at most attractions if you don’t arrive until 10:30am with everyone else, just like every other day this week.  If you’re staying for Fantasmic, I highly recommend the Fantasmic Dining Package that will guarantee everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater if you’re planning to see the 6:30pm show.  While you’ll still want to arrive at least 25 minutes early, it’s better than the 60+ minute wait you’re looking at without the Package.  If you don’t plan to purchase the Package or it isn’t available, plan to see the 10pm show. It will be the least crowded show of the night and require a much shorter wait to get decent seats.  Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  The 8pm Fantasmic would also be better than the 6:30pm show if you’re not on the Dining Package.  Still, you’ll want to arrive at least 40 minutes early to secure good seats together.  Finally, you’ll want to stay through close if you didn’t arrive early in the morning and couldn’t get to the headliners without long waits.  After the second Fantasmic, crowds should disperse considerably and you should find relatively low crowds at the headliners from 9pm through close.  You’ll still want to hold off on Toy Story Mania until the very end of the night because it should still have a considerable posted wait, even if the actual wait is lower.  Remember, Disney will allow you to enter the line to any ride right up until the official Park close, even if you won’t actually ride until after the Park closes.  In other words, you can freely enter the Toy Story Mania line and ride at 10:50pm, even if the posted wait time is 45 minutes.  You’ll also want to consider that waits before close are often inflated to dissuade people from entering them.  Make sure to ask an attendant if the wait might actually be lower than posted.  Finally, don’t be too concerned about Disney getting you back to your resort.  They run buses for at least 90 minutes after the official close and most shops will continue to operate for at least 30 minutes after close.  There will be plenty of people headed to buses at 11:30pm.  If you’re planning to see the Osborne Lights tonight (absolutely recommended), the best time to view them is also from 10:45pm – 11:30pm.  Disney keeps the Lights on and dancing for an hour after the “official close.”  Because most people don’t know this and instinctively head to the exit before the Park “officially closes,” few people are still around that late at night.  Overall, you can have a good day at the Studios if you arrive early and tour efficiently, but be mindful that crowds are still going to be heavy from 11am – 8pm.

Magic Kingdom is going to be extremely busy, though it won’t be quite as busy as tomorrow.  We have a preview of the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks show at 11:50pm, on top of two afternoon Christmas Parades, two evening Electrical Parades, and the Holiday Wishes Fireworks show.  While I can’t explicitly recommend visiting Magic Kingdom during the day because of the crowd level, this is your best opportunity to see the New Year’s Eve Fireworks.  Disney runs the Fireworks as part of an “official test,” but also to spread out crowds over two nights.  While there is still a chance Magic Kingdom will close to capacity today, you should be able to get in without much trouble, especially with the extra capacity from New Fantasyland.  The morning is your best time to tour, especially with the late evening fireworks and evening Extra Magic Hours.  With the 7am opening for Disney resort guests and 8am opening for everyone else, you’ll have three or four great touring hours in the morning.  You should be able to get through the major Fantasyland attractions in just about an hour from 7am – 8am.  The late night hours from 11pm to 3am will also be a great time to tour because most people will be too tired to continue.  Plan to visit Fantasyland after 1am if you would like to return to Peter Pan’s Flight, Winnie the Pooh, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and others if the lines were too long earlier in the day.  The evening entertainment is going to be extremely popular and you may need to line up for a prime spot on Main Street by 6pm and continue to stand there until the 11:50pm Fireworks display.  Tomorrow, people will be camped out on Main Street all day in order to get the best viewing locations for the New Year’s Eve festivities.  If you are intent on seeing the New Year’s Eve fireworks, I recommend visiting early in the morning, taking a lengthy afternoon break, and returning in the evening for dinner and the evening spectaculars.  The Park will be extremely busy in the afternoon, but not as busy as it will be tomorrow.  Overall, this is your best opportunity to see the New Year’s Eve Fireworks and the morning will be a viable time to tour in low crowds.  The afternoon crowds will be extremely heavy and you’ll want to be in line for the least popular attractions or back at your resort for a relaxing break.  Keep in mind that Magic Kingdom is the only Park that does a “trial run” of the New Year’s Eve entertainment.  If you do see it today, it will give you another opportunity tomorrow to see the celebrations at Hollywood Studios or Epcot.

Tuesday December 31

Animal Kingdom: 8am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade: 3:45pm

Epcot: 8am – 1am (Not Recommended)

New Year’s Eve Illuminations: 6:30pm and 11:40pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 12am (Tentatively Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 12am – 2am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm and 10pm

Lights, Camera, Happy New Year Fireworks: 12am

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 2am (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 7pm, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 8:30pm, Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks: 11:50pm

From a crowd-perspective, Animal Kingdom is overwhelmingly the best Park to visit.  We have no special New Year’s Eve entertainment, which means no one will be visiting for holiday festivities.  The morning Extra Magic Hour is not a concern whatsoever, considering the events going on elsewhere.  The Park will be far from empty with the high overall crowd level, but this will be the least busy Animal Kingdom has been since Christmas Day and the least busy Park overall this whole week.  Despite the recommendation, we’re still in the midst of the highest crowds of the year.  Arrive by 6:40am if you’re Extra Magic Hours eligible or 7:40am if you’re not and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing.  After that, move on to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, and plan to see the first Finding Nemo the Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King.  Those shows are popular and fill up fast later in the day.  You may also want to prioritize the popular characters by arriving about five minutes before they’re scheduled to first appear.  If you couldn’t arrive early, stay through 8pm because crowds will only get smaller after the 3:45pm Parade concludes.  Use FASTPASS diligently throughout the day and return to the standby lines to ride any attractions after 7pm.  Check your Times Guide to see when the last safari ride at Kilimanjaro Safaris is scheduled.  It will be before 5pm due to lack of sunlight and temperature.  Overall, you can have a lot of success if you tour efficiently between 7am – 10:30am and/or 6pm – 8pm, but Animal Kingdom will be busy in the late morning and afternoon with the high overall crowd level.  You may also want to take advantage of the low crowds in the morning before Park Hopping over Hollywood Studios or Epcot.  A Magic Kingdom Park Hop is riskier because it may close to capacity.

This is the busiest day of the year at Epcot, by far.  We’re talking 200+ minute waits at Soarin’ and Test Track, 60+ minute waits at Spaceship Earth, 100+ minute waits at Maelstrom, 30+ minute waits at Journey into Imagination with Figment, and capacity crowds at The American Adventure all day.  World Showcase will be PACKED from 2pm through 1am.  I only recommend visiting Epcot if you’re prepared to deal with the crowds.  There are a lot of fun dance parties going on in the World Showcase and the IllumiNations shows are even more spectacular than usual, but this is not the place to be if you’re looking for anything resembling sensible crowds.  You can have a moderate amount of success riding the headliners from 8am to 11am and then moving up through the World Showcase right at 11am.  After that, it’s going to be difficult to move around the Park.

Hollywood Studios comes tentatively recommended if you’re looking for a special New Year’s Eve celebration.  While it will still be one of the most crowded days of the year at the Studios, it won’t be anywhere near as crowded as Epcot or Magic Kingdom.  The New Year’s Eve fireworks show is a lot of fun too, with fireworks shot off the various buildings over Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat.  Disney sets up the big stage in front of the Hat and Mulch, Sweat, and Shears performs throughout the evening to keep the crowd entertained.  If you’d also like to visit the attractions, your best and only real opportunity to ride with short waits is in the early morning.  This means you’ll want to arrive by 7:30am and head straight to the headliners, beginning of course with Toy Story Mania.  The late night evening Extra Magic Hours are also a viable time to tour, particularly if you can stay up until 2am.  This would be very difficult if you arrive early and don’t take a sizable afternoon break.  Plan to return to Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster after 1am when crowds will die down significantly.  Overall, Hollywood Studios is the best place to go if you’re looking for a fun New Year’s Eve event.  The crowds will be heavy, but not stifling and you’ll be able to enjoy a wonderful fireworks celebration.  If you’re interested in seeing Fantasmic, I would save it for another night if possible.  If not, I highly recommend the Fantasmic Dining Package that guarantees everyone on the reservation a seat in the reserved section of the theater.  Because crowds will begin to build on Hollywood Studios for the fireworks show around 8pm, you won’t want to be caught in the middle of the huge crowds exiting Fantasmic at 8:30pm because many of them will stop on Hollywood Boulevard to save spots for the fireworks.  The same is true for the 10pm Fantasmic.  While that Fantasmic will be the least crowded, you’ll exit at 10:30pm to a wall of people on Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard.  You’ll need to be ready to hold down spots on Hollywood Boulevard by 9:50pm should you be interested in seeing the Fireworks.  If Hollywood Boulevard isn’t already filling up, you’ll have time to complete some additional attractions.  Otherwise, plan to stay near the back of the Park – away from Sunset Boulevard.

This should be the busiest day of the year at Magic Kingdom.  If you’re interested in seeing the New Year’s Eve Fireworks, you’ll want to arrive by 10am and stay put for the entire day.  Otherwise, you run the risk of finding the Park closed to capacity.  It usually opens back up in the late afternoon or early evening, around 5pm, but it’s going to be difficult to get in after 8pm.  Keep in mind that the exact same fireworks show was available yesterday at the same time.  While it will also be crowded, it won’t be anywhere near as jam-packed as today.  Your only opportunity to ride the major attractions with short waits is in the very early morning.  Of course, it’s going to be difficult to stay up until 12am if you also arrive at 7am.  If you are planning to stay all day, I suggest making table service reservations for lunch and dinner.  Liberty Tree Tavern has an economical lunch menu and The Plaza Restaurant is the cheapest restaurant for dinner.  Consider one or both of those if you’re on a budget.  Try to eat at off times for the best service and shortest waits.  The same is true for quick service – try to eat before 11:30am and between 3pm and 5pm.  Disney may run a quick service dining promotion where they discount quick service meals during off-peak times.  If that happens, it will make peak dining times like 12pm-2pm and 5pm-7pm less crowded.  Still, expect long lines and few open tables all day.  All in all, there isn’t a lot of upside to visiting the Magic Kingdom unless you’re extremely intent on seeing the New Year’s Eve Fireworks.  Crowds will be incredibly heavy from 10am through 12am and it will be very difficult to get on anything other than the Carousel of Progress and Liberty Square Riverboat.  Expect waits of 150+ minutes at Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, and other major attractions in the afternoon.  Visit Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios unless you’re prepared to deal with crowds of this magnitude.

If you don’t want to brave the holiday crowds, but still want to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks, the best place to see them is the beach at the Polynesian Resort.  Security most likely won’t let you park without a dining reservation or room key/MagicBand, but you can easily walk from the Transportation and Ticket Center or take the Resort Monorail. Plan to arrive by 9pm if you can because security may start restricting access later in the evening.  The view from the Polynesian is excellent and you’ll be able to take in all of the peripheral fireworks, which isn’t something you can easily do from inside the Park.

 

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna Hannan May 23, 2013 at 4:56 am

Hi Josh, we’re a party of 7 coming from the UK, arriving late Christmas Day & I need your advice-we’re splitting out stay, 1st week on property, second week not-I have 4 daughters desperate to try BOG & then watch wishes Christmas Day (eve), but I’m more than aware that MK will probably be full to capacity-what do you think my chances are of risking an ADR @ big for 7:30 ish, then watching wishes @ 10pm?? Should we be admitted? Thanks in advance :-)

Donna Hannan May 23, 2013 at 4:57 am

Hi Josh, we’re a party of 7 coming from the UK, arriving late Christmas Day & I need your advice-we’re splitting our stay, 1st week on property, second week not-I have 4 daughters desperate to try BOG & then watch wishes Christmas Day (eve), but I’m more than aware that MK will probably be full to capacity-what do you think my chances are of risking an ADR @ bog for 7:30 ish, then watching wishes @ 10pm?? Should we be admitted? Thanks in advance :-)

wongck May 23, 2013 at 4:59 am

Great Information.
Thank You !!

mike May 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm

What do you think of an epcot emh if you only plan on ws until 11 pm then hitting soarin when its dead

mike May 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I plan on going to fw another day and doing the cp and illuminations that day

Melissa May 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm

So if Main Street and the Hub are closed during the tapings how will we get in? Also, we are planning on coming Friday, December 6th. What can I expect to see/deal with in regards to closures for the taping.
Thanks!

Megan May 24, 2013 at 6:40 am

Hi I know that the Christmas parade usually has 2 days of taping. I am wondering if the two days will be the 6th and 7th or the 7th and 8th? I am going to WDW that week and want to avoid the MK those days. Right now I am getting ready to make my reservations so this information is very helpful. Thanks!

mike May 24, 2013 at 8:18 am

Not josh but its 6th and 7th. Shows on 6th parade on 7tn

Megan May 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

Thanks I will move my trip to the next week so it will be easier to plan it out and avoid the taping!

mike May 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

Your welcome im going 7th to the 14th

Megan May 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Thats funny I will be there the 9th to the 16th. I was there the same time last year and other than the opening of fantasyland the crowds were great! Hoping for the same this year. Have fun!

mike May 24, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Ty u2

rebelbuddhist June 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hey, Josh…. when can we expect to see your words of wisdom for the 21-31 of Dec?

Tonya June 4, 2013 at 9:23 am

I was also wondering if u could give us information on week of Dec. 22-29? Like u did for Dec. 1-21 ….. Love the detailed information!!! Thank u so much.

Crystal June 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

Is there something going on at AK on Tues Dec 3??? All the crowd calanders show it green no matter who’s site I check. I tried to get a reservation at Tusker House this morning – at 5 AM CDT and nothing but a 10:40 AM. There were tons of times for Dec 1 & 2 so got an 8:20 AM for Dec 1. What could be going on?

Amy June 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Hi! I am planning my trip for 11/30-12/6. We wanted to go when the crowd levels were low. I am having a really hard time making any reservations- anywhere. I was only able to get BBB at 5:30pm or later and am having a lot of trouble making any char dining reservations on the parks we want. We were not able to get our first choice hotel either. Is there something going on that week that I am missing? I am getting really nervous that it is going to be super crowded!? Any thoughts or words of wisdom would be really appreciated!

Tonya July 8, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Question on a Date & it’s times. Dec. 22, AK you have times listed for 8am – 8pm? But I don’t see those times on Disney website. I also don’t see EMH for those days. Are those times due to the holidays? Are the times you listed for sure? Thank you

Jody July 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

Getting nervous that it’s going to be very busy Nov 30-Dec 7. Your calendar shows low crowds but hotel and ADR’s seem all booked up. Is this common? I checked the 2nd week and there are a lot of hotel rooms available. I already have my plane tickets otherwise I would switch. :( Any reassuring words?? :)

suzanne march July 31, 2013 at 2:37 am

Hi we are travelling 24th dec,to 8th jan 2014, I no it’s going to be really busy,but my daughter is scared that u wont be able to move or do anything she’s 14, is this true,i have wrote down everything on your website to take with us,

Ben August 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Getting nervous about the first week of dDec. Your calendar shows low crowds but hotel and ADR’s seem all booked up. Is this common? I checked the 2nd week and there are a lot of hotel rooms available. Is it just because of dvc members being proactive or is it looking to be busy?

maureen August 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

The park hours and event times for the week of Dec 22 are off compared to Disney’s site. For example, MK is NOT open til 1 am as you suggest, but closes at 10pm. This makes it hard to plan using your suggestions. What’s up?

mike September 4, 2013 at 4:20 am

maureen this isn’t josh but about mid november they will be adding more hours josh is just going by the usual added hours look up the crowd calendar for december 2012

jose eduardo de carvalho campos September 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

That will be our first time at Disney. We are 6 adults and 4 children (ages from 6 to 9)
We wondering if you could give us information on week s of Dec. 14-31? Love the detailed information!!! Thank u so much

JJ November 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

Hi,

I keep seeing people’s concerns for the crowds the week of November 30 thru December 7th. I haven’t seen your reply. We will be there that week and I was curious. Thanks.

Andrea November 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I notice on Dec 22nd that the last Fantasmic show is at 10:00. It also says the park closes at 10:00. Will the last show occur at the same time as park closing?

Crystal B November 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm

On December 11 you have that HS closes at 6, but you have instructions for Fantasmic that will not be shown that night. We have Sci-fi ADR at 520 will we be rushed out of the park or trampled by cheer leaders coming into the park? Love the website!

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