December 2014 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar

by josh on June 4, 2014

8/20/14 Update: Crowd calendar updated with the operating schedule changes listed here.

6/27/14 Update: Crowd calendar updated with the changes listed here. Note the changes in Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom.

6/18/14 Update: Added daily analysis for December 21 – 31.

6/4/14 Update: Added daily analysis for December 1 – 20. Still verifying estimates for the end of the month.

This is the Free December 2014 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 two 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.

Monday December 1

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 few people that just arrived over the weekend will be looking to visit Disney World’s least popular theme park. 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. 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 for a recommended day if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later. Friday and Saturday are the best days to visit this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special evening entertainment, or anything else that will draw people toward Epcot specifically. Disney resort guests will be more likely to visit tomorrow or Friday for Extra Magic Hours and off-site visitors on a weeklong vacation will be headed to the Magic Kingdom for their first full day at the world’s most popular theme park. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Animal Kingdom for the Extra Magic Hour. 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 two-day compartmentalized touring plans. You’ll also be in the best shape if you’ve moved on to World Showcase by 12pm. Should you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm when most of the crowd has moved on to World Showcase. Just keep in mind that a lot of the Future World attractions close at 7pm. Usually, just Soarin, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Character Spot continue to operate after 7pm. If Character Spot is on your itinerary, try to visit after 7pm when waits times are much lower than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day for Epcot and an excellent opportunity to spend time in both Future World and World Showcase.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park as we come off two busier days in a row with Extra Magic Hours. It’s also early enough in the week that most guests just arriving will be intent on visiting Magic Kingdom with its nighttime entertainment and long hours of operation. As always, it’s imperative that you arrive by 8:15am and take care of Toy Story Mania first thing. The Studios has a severely limited number of rides and wait times rise quickly even on the most recommended days with the lowest crowds.

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. Magic Kingdom will be significantly busier than the crowd level indicates and is best avoided. You can do okay if you arrive at the gate by 8:20am and tour efficiently in the morning or after 10pm, but 11am – 9pm is going to be busier than any day this week other than Saturday.

Tuesday December 2

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended for a number of reasons. We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it. Yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour will be more popular with Disney resort guests. We also have Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios attracting a lot of off-site and on-site visitors alike and it’s early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. You’ll have no trouble riding both with very low waits before 10am. Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon shows, 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. You should have no trouble experiencing most everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FastPass+ intelligently, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows. Finally, crowds disperse in the early afternoon around 3pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to find much lower waits than earlier in the afternoon.

Epcot is not recommended. We have the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting the majority of Disney resort guests and a lot of off-site visitors who will naturally visit Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday. While Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios helps, it shouldn’t pull enough people away to make a discernible difference in wait times, particularly with Magic Kingdom being so unpopular with the early close. Skip it unless you can’t get there any other day or are certain you’ll arrive prior to 8am for the morning Extra Magic Hour and plan to either Park Hop elsewhere or take a break in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended. The short hours at Magic Kingdom will be a big turn off for many and off-site visitors in particular will be looking toward Fantasmic and Toy Story Mania after spending yesterday at Magic Kingdom. I’m looking towards tomorrow and Wednesday as a significantly better days to visit and I would hold off until then if possible.

Magic Kingdom is the best Park to visit, despite the truncated operating schedule and lack of both Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is scheduled tonight. It’s a separately ticketed event that begins at 7pm and runs through 12am. Because the hours are “so short” and there’s no evening entertainment during the regular day, most Disney vacationers will plan to visit on another day. Yesterday will have been busy and tomorrow will also be busier, thanks to longer hours and evening entertainment. Today is an excellent opportunity to visit the Fantasyland and headlining attractions with minimal waits as well as visit the popular characters and whatever else you’d like to experience. Because waits are shorter and the crowd level is so much lower, you’ll actually be able to accomplish more during the day today than either yesterday or tomorrow, despite the Park being open fewer hours. For maximum efficiency, arrive by 8:30am and use FastPass+ in the early afternoon when crowds and waits peak. Consider a second day at the Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes or ideally Park Hop over in the evening on a night that it’s available. Wednesday is the best day of the week to see the Main Street Electrical Parade at night, but that isn’t saying a whole lot when your other options are a busy Monday and Saturday. Finally, Mickey’s Christmas Party does feature the special Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular at 9:30pm above Cinderella Castle. This show is viewable from a variety of locations around Disney property. My favorite is the Polynesian Resort’s beach, which is directly across from the Magic Kingdom. The 4th floor observatory at the Contemporary Resort is another excellent location. The boat launch and marina at the Grand Floridian also offer pretty good views, though less direct angles. The boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center also offers an underrated view and it makes for the easiest exit if you’re driving because you’re already at the parking lot. The soundtrack is easiest to hear at the Contemporary, Transportation and Ticket Center, and Polynesian in that order. You might consider taking the monorail or boat to one of the Monorail Deluxe resorts for dinner after the Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and then get into position to enjoy the fireworks around 9:20pm at one of the previously mentioned locations. You can then transfer back to the Magic Kingdom and take a resort bus back to your resort or hop in your car and head wherever you like. Each of the Deluxe resorts have pretty good quick service locations too, so you can also eat on the cheap if you prefer and look around the resort(s) for a while until Holiday Wishes begins.

Wednesday December 3

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 or special evening entertainment going on at the other Parks, which will cause a lot of off-site guests to visit as well. With both yesterday and tomorrow recommended, there’s no reason to visit today. However, if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and able to arrive by 7:30am, you can have a tremendous amount of success from 8am – 10am. But the afternoon is going to be busier than any other day this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We’re coming off a popular morning Extra Magic Hour yesterday and most Disney resort guests will be waiting to either return or visit for their first time this Friday. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will be more popular with the relatively long operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. Plan to arrive by 8:15am 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. Plan to use FastPass+ at Soarin’ or Test Track later in the day when waits are longer. The single rider line at Test Track often has an actual wait shorter than standby or FastPass+, so consider that as an option. You may also want to get in line for Soarin’ or Test Track right before Epcot closes to find shorter waits than the afternoon, but only if you’re willing to give up seeing IllumiNations. Mission: SPACE should have nominal waits before 11am or after 7pm and is a lower priority. If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am,Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning. Keep in mind that some Future World attractions close at 7pm. Expect Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Captain EO, Living with the Land, Circle of Life, and both Innoventions buildings to accept their last guests of the day at 7pm. Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park with Magic Kingdom drawing more guests with the later close and Animal Kingdom being attractive to resort guests. To have the most success, you’ll still want to arrive by 8:15am and head straight for Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. Because Toy Story Mania has such a limited capacity, wait times are almost always 60+ minutes in the afternoon, even with some of the lowest crowds of the year. 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, Great Movie Ride, 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. The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule. You may also want to prioritize characters that will have longer afternoon waits. The Toy Story characters across from Toy Story typically meet beginning at 9am and have the longest afternoon waits. Sofia the First usually has the second longest waits and meets in Animation Courtyard beginning at 9:30am. Phineas & Ferb also see long lines. They typically begin appearing at 9:30am, which means you’ll have time to ride Toy Story Mania before heading over to the Toy Story characters and then over to Sofia or Phineas & Ferb, which are located 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 later in the day 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. Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Chip, Dale, Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto are all common, but no specific character is guaranteed to appear. For Fantasmic, consider 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 first show. You’ll still need to arrive at least 20 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package. The Dining Package 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 credits as it would otherwise) and includes the appetizer. If you’re not interested in the Dining Package, plan to see the second show, which is less popular and doesn’t suffer from two large sections closed for Package users. As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the center sections. Sit 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 tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there with the longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment luring more casual vacationers in the middle of the week than usual. With no Electrical Parade scheduled until Saturday, today will be more popular than either of the next two days. 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 priorities 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 Wishes. 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 6pm 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+ in the afternoon when waits peak. 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, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the 11pm Parade. Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street and offer a similar view. The later Parade is significantly less crowded because so many families leave after Wishes, if they even make it that far. The last two hours will also see much shorter waits than the afternoon. Visit Tomorrowland after 10pm and Fantasyland after 11pm, finishing with Peter Pan’s Flight and Mine Train.

Thursday December 4

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

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Festival of Fantasy 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. We have few people headed to Magic Kingdom with the short hours of operation. 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 the most recommended Park. Tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more attractive to Disney resort guests. Magic Kingdom’s morning Extra Magic Hour will help pull resort guests and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios continues to draw crowds. 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 use FastPass+ at Soarin or Test Track because they will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10:30am due to popularity and relatively low capacities. Getting in line right before Park close will also result in a short wait if you can’t ride any other time. Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World. 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 and IllumiNations.

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 tentatively 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 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 will cause many of them to head elsewhere. Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a day with longer operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. 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 5

ABC Christmas Parade Taping at Magic Kingdom – Musical Acts on Castle stage

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 5pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park. Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with evening Extra Magic Hours and the minor inconvenience at Magic Kingdom making it slightly less attractive for some. All in all, you can have a lot of success if you arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing in the morning. After getting those two attractions out of the way, head over to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, over to the popular character greetings, or over to one of the two most popular stage shows – Finding Nemo the Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get crowded later in the day and the first show is always the least crowded and will require the shortest wait to get good seats. If you arrive later, you may need to rely on FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest. Expedition Everest also has a “single rider line” that is usually short if you’re willing to split the group up. You’ll find it to the right of the standby line. Plan to stay through close if you couldn’t get to the headliners earlier in the day or if you’d like to return to any other attractions because crowds only dissipate in the afternoon and more and more people leave. Return to DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to find much shorter waits than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day to visit Animal Kingdom if you need a day there. If you’re looking to extend your day, you may want to book a dinner reservation right around Park close. Disney will run buses for at least 90 minutes after Park close to get you back to your Disney resort and most restaurants accept bookings right up until close. You may also want to visit the BoardWalk or Downtown Disney, both of which are popular dining/shopping destinations. Of course, you can also Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom for the nighttime entertainment, Epcot for IllumiNations, or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic. If you do plan to head elsewhere, you’ll most likely want to take a sizable afternoon break.

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 a decent 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. With Extra Magic Hours only being two hours now, wait times at Soarin’ and Test Track won’t ease much until after 11pm. However, other attractions will see nominal waits and it’s a great time to take in Epcot’s natural ambiance and hit a few of the less popular/high capacity attractions. Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual. Overall, there’s no reason to visit Epcot today because crowds will be higher than any other day during the week and waits at Soarin’ and Test Track will be just as long as they were during the day until at least 10:30pm.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. We have short hours and no evening entertainment during regular Park hours at Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s most popular theme park. While Epcot will be popular with Disney resort guests, a lot of off-site visitors will be saving the Studios and Fantasmic for tonight. While there’s nothing specific drawing people towards the Studios in particular, we can still expect to be busier than any of the past three days. It should be avoided unless you can’t visit another day. Tomorrow will be busier with the morning Extra Magic Hour, so take that into consideration if you need to visit today or tomorrow.

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. Festival of Fantasy 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 or another priority and you’ll be in excellent shape.

Saturday December 6

ABC Christmas Parade Taping at Magic Kingdom – Main Street closed through 5pm

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

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 12am – 2am

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 5pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special events, evening entertainment, or anything else to attract on-site or off-site visitors. Those leaving tomorrow after a traditional weeklong vacation are unlikely to visit Animal Kingdom on their last full day and most arriving today won’t head out to Animal Kingdom as their first destination. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be attracting the bulk of the resort crowd. As always, you’ll be best off if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. Wait times will only get shorter after 4pm, so stay through close if you have more you’d like to accomplish. Head to DinoLand after 5pm and Asia after 6pm to find much lower waits than the afternoon.

Epcot is recommended as we come off of a much busier day yesterday with evening Extra Magic Hours attracting the bulk of the Disney resort crowd. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be attracting the majority of off-site and on-site visitors with long hours and plentiful evening entertainment. The only problem is Epcot’s popular Christmas program will bring in additional locals over the weekend. 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’. If Character Spot is a priority, visit after 7pm when waits will be shorter than the afternoon and you won’t have to waste precious morning time. It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon because a lot of people will have their eyes on the Electrical Parade and Fantasmic.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. The sizable Disney resort contingent numbers 75,000+ people. Because Disney sells the Extra Magic Hour program so well in its marketing materials, many of these Disney resort guests follow the Extra Magic Hours schedule because they think it’s Disney telling them where they belong each day. While you can have success if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and arrive by 7:15am, most people will want to visit another day. Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or are certain you’ll arrive by 7:15am and plan to hit Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours first thing in the morning. This past Thursday was the best day of the week to visit.

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.” The late night remains a good time to tour if you’re looking for a late night. Begin the first Extra Magic Hour in Adventureland or Frontierland because most people will head directly for the most popular rides in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland only to find relatively lengthy waits. Finish in the last hour with Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, getting in line for something like Mine Train at the very end of the night.

Sunday December 7

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended. Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Animal Kingdom tomorrow for morning Extra Magic Hour and it’s unlikely anyone arriving over the weekend will begin their vacation with Disney’s least popular theme park. Despite the relatively short operating hours, you should be able to do just about everything the Park has to offer if you arrive prior to Park opening. Focus on riding Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as early as possible or use FastPass+. 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 in the afternoon and the last hour of operation will only have diminishing waits. End the day in Asia with Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest and waits will be nearly nonexistent.

Epcot remains recommended with the average overall crowd level and Hollywood Studios pulling resort guests. Most people will want to take advantage of lower crowds at Magic Kingdom and wait until Monday to visit when more is going on elsewhere. You can still do perfectly well by arriving prior to Park opening and heading straight for Soarin’ or Test Track. Use FastPass+ at the other and you’ll have taken care of the headliners in Future World. Move up through World Showcase as close to 11am as possible and you’re set for the day.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests. The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase around 11am as more and more Disney resort guests arrive. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios. There are only a few attractions open 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. In addition, 9,000+ people will exit Fantasmic at 7pm and 8:30pm, right as evening Extra Magic Hours gets underway. The Fantasmic Theater is located right on Sunset Boulevard, across from the entrances to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. While not everyone seeing Fantasmic will be a Disney resort guest, many of them will be, and a ton will be headed to Tower of Tower and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster because they truly believe it’s the best time to get in line. Unfortunately, they’ll find themselves lined up with a few thousand of their new best friends. 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. While you could theoretically have success if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for the headliners, the same will be true later in the week and you won’t have to deal with the significantly heavier afternoon and evening crowds. Monday and Wednesday are considerably 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 coming off a very busy day yesterday with the longer operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. 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. 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 like a truncated day, I can assure you that ten hours is a long time to spend in a theme park. If you arrive by 8:30am, 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+ in the afternoon when crowds peak, 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 the 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 ticket to get in line. There are no exceptions. Other than those minor inconveniences, this is going to be one of the three least crowded days of the week at Magic Kingdom.

Monday December 8

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 few people that just arrived over the weekend will be looking to visit Disney World’s least popular theme park. 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. 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 for a recommended day if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later. Tomorrow and Saturday are the best days to visit this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special evening entertainment, or anything else that will draw people toward Epcot specifically. Disney resort guests will be more likely to visit tomorrow or Friday for Extra Magic Hours and off-site visitors on a weeklong vacation will be headed to the Magic Kingdom for their first full day at the world’s most popular theme park. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Animal Kingdom for the Extra Magic Hour. 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 two-day compartmentalized touring plans. You’ll also be in the best shape if you’ve moved on to World Showcase by 12pm. Should you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm when most of the crowd has moved on to World Showcase. Just keep in mind that a lot of the Future World attractions close at 7pm. Usually, just Soarin, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Character Spot continue to operate after 7pm. If Character Spot is on your itinerary, try to visit after 7pm when waits times are much lower than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day for Epcot and an excellent opportunity to spend time in both Future World and World Showcase.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park as we come off two busier days in a row with Extra Magic Hours. It’s also early enough in the week that most guests just arriving will be intent on visiting Magic Kingdom with its nighttime entertainment and long hours of operation. As always, it’s imperative that you arrive by 8:15am and take care of Toy Story Mania first thing. The Studios has a severely limited number of rides and wait times rise quickly even on the most recommended days with the lowest crowds.

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. Magic Kingdom will be significantly busier than the average crowd level indicates and is best avoided. You can do okay if you arrive at the gate by 8:30am and tour efficiently in the morning, but 11am – 9pm is going to be busier than any day this week other than Saturday.

Tuesday December 9

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended for a number of reasons. We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it. Yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour will be more popular with Disney resort guests. We also have Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios attracting a lot of off-site and on-site visitors alike and it’s early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. You’ll have no trouble riding both with very low waits before 10am. Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon shows, 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. You should have no trouble experiencing most everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FastPass+ intelligently, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows. Finally, crowds disperse in the early afternoon around 3pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand after 3pm and Asia after 4pm to find much lower waits than earlier in the afternoon. Overall, today and Saturday are the best days of the week to visit.

Epcot is not recommended. We have the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting the majority of Disney resort guests and a lot of off-site visitors who will naturally visit Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday. While Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios helps, it shouldn’t pull enough people away to make a discernible difference in wait times, particularly with Magic Kingdom being so unpopular with the early close. Skip it unless you can’t get there any other day or are certain you’ll arrive prior to 8am for the morning Extra Magic Hour and plan to either Park Hop elsewhere or take a break in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended. The short hours at Magic Kingdom will be a big turn off for many and off-site visitors in particular will be looking toward Fantasmic and Toy Story Mania after spending yesterday at Magic Kingdom. I’m looking towards tomorrow and Wednesday as a significantly better days to visit and I would hold off until then if possible.

Magic Kingdom is the best Park to visit, despite the truncated operating schedule and lack of both Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is scheduled tonight. It’s a separately ticketed event that begins at 7pm and runs through 12am. Because the hours are “so short” and there’s no evening entertainment during the regular day, most Disney vacationers will plan to visit on another day. Yesterday will have been busy and tomorrow will also be busier, thanks to longer hours and evening entertainment. Today is an excellent opportunity to visit the Fantasyland and headlining attractions with minimal waits as well as visit the popular characters and whatever else you’d like to experience. Because waits are shorter and the crowd level is so much lower, you’ll actually be able to accomplish more during the day today than either yesterday or tomorrow, despite the Park being open fewer hours. For maximum efficiency, arrive by 8:30am and use FastPass+ in the early afternoon when crowds and waits peak. Consider a second day at the Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes or ideally Park Hop over in the evening on a night that it’s available. Wednesday is the best day of the week to see the Main Street Electrical Parade at night, but that isn’t saying a whole lot when your other options are a busy Monday and Saturday. Finally, Mickey’s Christmas Party does feature the special Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular at 9:30pm above Cinderella Castle. This show is viewable from a variety of locations around Disney property. My favorite is the Polynesian Resort’s beach, which is directly across from the Magic Kingdom. The 4th floor observatory at the Contemporary Resort is another excellent location. The boat launch and marina at the Grand Floridian also offer pretty good views, though less direct angles. The boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center also offers an underrated view and it makes for the easiest exit if you’re driving because you’re already at the parking lot. The soundtrack is easiest to hear at the Contemporary, Transportation and Ticket Center, and Polynesian in that order. You might consider taking the monorail or boat to one of the Monorail Deluxe resorts for dinner after the Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and then get into position to enjoy the fireworks around 9:20pm at one of the previously mentioned locations. You can then transfer back to the Magic Kingdom and take a resort bus back to your resort or hop in your car and head wherever you like. Each of the Deluxe resorts have pretty good quick service locations too, so you can also eat on the cheap if you prefer and look around the resort(s) for a while until Holiday Wishes begins.

Wednesday December 10

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Pop Warner Party after hours

Fantasmic: 6pm

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 or special evening entertainment going on at the other Parks, which will cause a lot of off-site guests to visit as well. With both yesterday and tomorrow recommended, there’s no reason to visit today. However, if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and able to arrive by 7:30am, you can have a tremendous amount of success from 8am – 10am. But the afternoon is going to be busier than any other day this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We’re coming off a popular morning Extra Magic Hour yesterday and most Disney resort guests will be waiting to either return or visit for their first time this Friday. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will be more popular with the relatively long operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. Plan to arrive by 8:15am 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. Plan to use FastPass+ at Soarin’ or Test Track later in the day when waits are longer. The single rider line at Test Track often has an actual wait shorter than standby or FastPass+, so consider that as an option. You may also want to get in line for Soarin’ or Test Track right before Epcot closes to find shorter waits than the afternoon, but only if you’re willing to give up seeing IllumiNations. Mission: SPACE should have nominal waits before 11am or after 7pm and is a lower priority. If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am. Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning. Keep in mind that some Future World attractions close at 7pm. Expect Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Captain EO, Living with the Land, Circle of Life, and both Innoventions buildings to accept their last guests of the day at 7pm. Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park with Magic Kingdom drawing more guests with the later close and Animal Kingdom being attractive to resort guests. The Studios closes early today for the Pop Century after-hours party, which won’t affect daytime crowds adversely. In fact, the early close will turn off many casual vacationers. Note that the Osborne Lights will not be turned on today. To have the most success, you’ll still want to arrive by 8:15am 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, even with some of the lowest crowds of the year. 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. The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule. You may also want to prioritize characters that will have longer afternoon waits. The Toy Story characters across from Toy Story typically meet beginning at 9am and have the longest afternoon waits. Sofia the First usually has the second longest waits and meets in Animation Courtyard beginning at 9:30am. Phineas & Ferb also see long lines. They typically begin appearing at 9:30am, which means you’ll have time to ride Toy Story Mania before heading over to the Toy Story characters and then over to Sofia or Phineas & Ferb, which are located 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 later in the day 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. Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Chip, Dale, Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto are all common, but no specific character is guaranteed to appear. 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 20 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package. The Dining Package 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 credits 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 center sections. Sit 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 tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there with the longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment luring more casual vacationers in the middle of the week than usual. With no Electrical Parade scheduled until Saturday, today will be more popular than either of the next two days. 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 priorities 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 Wishes. 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 6pm 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+ in the afternoon when waits peak. 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, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the 11pm Parade. Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street and offer a similar view. The later Parade is less crowded because so many families leave immediately after Wishes, if they even make it that late. If you’re not interested in the nighttime entertainment, visit Tomorrowland after 9pm and Fantasyland after 10pm to find significantly shorter waits than the afternoon.

Thursday December 11

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

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Festival of Fantasy 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. We have few people headed to Magic Kingdom with the short hours of operation. 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 the most recommended Park. Tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more attractive to Disney resort guests. Magic Kingdom’s morning Extra Magic Hour will help pull resort guests and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios continues to draw crowds. 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 use FastPass+ at Soarin or Test Track because they will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10:30am due to popularity and relatively low capacities. Getting in line right before Park close will also result in a short wait if you can’t ride any other time. Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World. 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 and IllumiNations.

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 tentatively 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 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 will cause many of them to head elsewhere. Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a day with longer operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. 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 12

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Recommended)

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended. Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with evening Extra Magic Hours and Hollywood Studios will remain busy with Fantasmic and the Osborne Lights. All in all, you can have a lot of success if you arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing in the morning. After getting those two attractions out of the way, head over to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, over to the popular character greetings, or over to one of the two most popular stage shows – Finding Nemo the Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get crowded later in the day and the first show is always the least crowded and will require the shortest wait to get good seats. If you arrive later, you may need to rely on FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest. Expedition Everest also has a “single rider line” that is usually short if you’re willing to split the group up. You’ll find it to the right of the standby line. Plan to stay through close if you couldn’t get to the headliners earlier in the day or if you’d like to return to any other attractions because crowds only dissipate in the afternoon and more and more people leave. Return to DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to find much shorter waits than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day to visit Animal Kingdom if you need a day there. If you’re looking to extend your day, you may want to book a dinner reservation right around Park close. Disney will run buses for at least 90 minutes after Park close to get you back to your Disney resort and most restaurants accept bookings right up until close. You may also want to visit the BoardWalk or Downtown Disney, both of which are popular dining/shopping destinations. Of course, you can also Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom for the nighttime entertainment, Epcot for IllumiNations, or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic. If you do plan to head elsewhere, you’ll most likely want to take a sizable afternoon break.

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 a decent 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. With Extra Magic Hours only being two hours now, wait times at Soarin’ and Test Track won’t ease much until after 11pm. However, other attractions will see nominal waits and it’s a great time to take in Epcot’s natural ambiance and hit a few of the less popular/high capacity attractions. Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual. Overall, there’s no reason to visit Epcot today because crowds will be higher than any other day during the week and waits at Soarin’ and Test Track will be just as long as they were during the day until at least 10:30pm.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. We have short hours and no evening entertainment during regular Park hours at Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s most popular theme park. While Epcot will be popular with Disney resort guests, a lot of off-site visitors will be saving the Studios and Fantasmic for tonight. While there’s nothing specific drawing people towards the Studios in particular, we can still expect to be busier than any of the past three days. It should be avoided unless you can’t visit another day. Tomorrow will be busier with the morning Extra Magic Hour, so take that into consideration if you need to visit today or tomorrow.

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 Christmas Party days that you’ll actually be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Most off-site vacationers will hold off until tomorrow for the longer hours, Main Street Electrical Parade, and Wishes and a lot of Disney resort guests will have visited yesterday for the morning Extra Magic Hour and the Electrical Parade. All of this leaves us with ample opportunity to get on the headlining and Fantasyland rides with minimal waits. 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. Use FastPass+ in the afternoon when wait times peak 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. Ideally, you would Park Hop over to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon or evening after spending the majority of your day at a Park with lower crowds. Either way, focus on getting the most popular attractions out of the way today and return to the Magic Kingdom for the nighttime spectaculars on another date. With only one day to spend at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to decide whether seeing Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade are worth spending the day in heavier crowds.

Saturday December 13

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

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 12am – 2am

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special events, evening entertainment, or anything else to attract on-site or off-site visitors. Those leaving tomorrow after a traditional weeklong vacation are unlikely to visit Animal Kingdom on their last full day and most arriving today won’t head out to Animal Kingdom as their first destination. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be attracting the bulk of the resort crowd. As always, you’ll be best off if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. Wait times will only get shorter after 4pm, so stay through close if you have more you’d like to accomplish. Head to DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to find much lower waits than the afternoon.

Epcot is recommended as we come off of a much busier day yesterday with evening Extra Magic Hours attracting the bulk of the Disney resort crowd. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be attracting the majority of off-site and on-site visitors with long hours and plentiful evening entertainment. The only problem is Epcot’s popular Christmas program will bring in additional locals over the weekend. 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’. If Character Spot is a priority, visit after 7pm when waits will be shorter than the afternoon and you won’t have to waste precious morning time. It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon because a lot of people will have their eyes on the Electrical Parade and Fantasmic.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. The sizable Disney resort contingent numbers 75,000+ people. Because Disney sells the Extra Magic Hour program so well in its marketing materials, many of these Disney resort guests follow the Extra Magic Hours schedule because they think it’s Disney telling them where they belong each day. While you can have success if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and arrive by 7:15am, most people will want to visit another day. Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or are certain you’ll arrive by 7:15am and plan to hit Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours first thing in the morning. This past Thursday was the best day of the week to visit.

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, Disney added evening Extra Magic Hours, attracting even more resort guests. On top of that, Main Street Electrical Parade is only scheduled on a limited number of 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. Yesterday will be much less crowded with the 7pm close and lack of nighttime entertainment. Yesterday, tomorrow, and next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday will be much better days to tour, but you can have a moderate amount of success today if you arrive prior to 8:30am and head straight for the headlining or Fantasyland attractions. You may elect to prioritize another low capacity attraction or character instead. 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 2pm – 6pm. The relatively late night is also a good time to tour with short waits at most attractions after 10pm. If you’re planning to visit during evening Extra Magic Hours, begin in Adventureland or Frontierland because most people will head straight for Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. Visit Tomorrowland or Fantasyland in the final hour to find shorter waits. 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 14

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended. Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Animal Kingdom tomorrow for morning Extra Magic Hour and it’s unlikely anyone arriving over the weekend will begin their vacation with Disney’s least popular theme park. Despite the relatively short operating hours, you should be able to do just about everything the Park has to offer if you arrive prior to Park opening. Focus on riding Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as early as possible or use FastPass+. 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 in the afternoon and the last hour of operation will only have diminishing waits. End the day in Asia with Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest and waits will be nearly nonexistent.

Epcot remains recommended with the average overall crowd level and Hollywood Studios pulling resort guests. Most people will want to take advantage of lower crowds at Magic Kingdom and wait until Monday to visit when more is going on elsewhere. You can still do perfectly well by arriving prior to Park opening and heading straight for Soarin’ or Test Track. Use FastPass+ at the other and you’ll have taken care of the headliners in Future World. Move up through World Showcase as close to 11am as possible and you’re set for the day.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests. The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase around 11am as more and more Disney resort guests arrive. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios. There are only a few attractions open 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. In addition, 9,000+ people will exit Fantasmic at 7pm and again at 8:30pm, right as evening Extra Magic Hours gets underway. The Fantasmic Theater is located right on Sunset Boulevard, across from the entrances to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. While not everyone seeing Fantasmic will be a Disney resort guest, many of them will be, and a ton will be headed to Tower of Tower and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster because they truly believe it’s the best time to get in line. Unfortunately, they’ll find themselves lined up with a few thousand of their new best friends. 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. While you could theoretically have success if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for the headliners, the same will be true later in the week and you won’t have to deal with the significantly heavier afternoon and evening crowds. Monday and Wednesday are considerably 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 coming off a very busy day yesterday with the longer operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. 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. 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 like a truncated day, I can assure you that ten hours is a long time to spend in a theme park. If you arrive by 8:30am, 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+ in the afternoon when crowds peak, 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 the 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 ticket to get in line. There are no exceptions. Other than those minor inconveniences, this is going to be one of the three least crowded days of the week at Magic Kingdom.

Monday December 15

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 few people that just arrived over the weekend will be looking to visit Disney World’s least popular theme park. 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. 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 for a recommended day if you’re not going to arrive until 9am or later. Tomorrow and Saturday are the best days to visit this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special evening entertainment, or anything else that will draw people toward Epcot specifically. Disney resort guests will be more likely to visit tomorrow or Friday for Extra Magic Hours and off-site visitors on a weeklong vacation will be headed to the Magic Kingdom for their first full day at the world’s most popular theme park. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom for the Extra Magic Hours. 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 two-day compartmentalized touring plans. You’ll also be in the best shape if you’ve moved on to World Showcase by 12pm. Should you have more to accomplish in Future World, return after 5pm when most of the crowd has moved on to World Showcase. Just keep in mind that a lot of the Future World attractions close at 7pm. Usually, just Soarin, Test Track, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Character Spot continue to operate after 7pm. If Character Spot is on your itinerary, try to visit after 7pm when waits times are much lower than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day for Epcot and an excellent opportunity to spend time in both Future World and World Showcase.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park as we come off two busier days in a row with Extra Magic Hours. It’s also early enough in the week that most guests just arriving will be intent on visiting Magic Kingdom with its nighttime entertainment and long hours of operation. As always, it’s imperative that you arrive by 8:15am and take care of Toy Story Mania first thing. The Studios has a severely limited number of rides and wait times rise quickly even on the most recommended days with the lowest crowds.

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. Magic Kingdom will be significantly busier than the average crowd level indicates and is best avoided. You can do okay if you arrive at the gate by 8:30am and tour efficiently in the morning, but 11am – 9pm is going to be busier than any day this week other than Saturday. The late evening is also a viable time to tour as most families will leave before or immediately after Wishes.

Tuesday December 16

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

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended for a number of reasons. We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it. Yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour will be more popular with Disney resort guests. We also have Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios attracting a lot of off-site and on-site visitors alike and it’s early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. You’ll have no trouble riding both with very low waits before 10am. Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon shows, 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. You should have no trouble experiencing most everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FastPass+ intelligently, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows. Finally, crowds disperse in the early afternoon around 3pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to find much lower waits than earlier in the afternoon. Overall, today and Saturday are the best days of the week to visit.

Epcot is not recommended. We have the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting the majority of Disney resort guests and a lot of off-site visitors who will naturally visit Epcot after the Magic Kingdom yesterday. While Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios helps, it shouldn’t pull enough people away to make a discernible difference in wait times, particularly with Magic Kingdom being so unpopular with the early close. Skip it unless you can’t get there any other day or are certain you’ll arrive prior to 8am for the morning Extra Magic Hour and plan to either Park Hop elsewhere or take a break in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended. The short hours at Magic Kingdom will be a big turn off for many and off-site visitors in particular will be looking toward Fantasmic and Toy Story Mania after spending yesterday at Magic Kingdom. I’m looking towards tomorrow and Wednesday as a significantly better days to visit and I would hold off until then if possible.

Magic Kingdom is the best Park to visit, despite the truncated operating schedule and lack of both Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is scheduled tonight. It’s a separately ticketed event that begins at 7pm and runs through 12am. Because the hours are “so short” and there’s no evening entertainment during the regular day, most Disney vacationers will plan to visit on another day. Yesterday will have been busy and tomorrow will also be busier, thanks to longer hours and evening entertainment. Today is an excellent opportunity to visit the Fantasyland and headlining attractions with minimal waits as well as visit the popular characters and whatever else you’d like to experience. Because waits are shorter and the crowd level is so much lower, you’ll actually be able to accomplish more during the day today than either yesterday or tomorrow, despite the Park being open fewer hours. For maximum efficiency, arrive by 8:30am and use FastPass+ in the early afternoon when crowds and waits peak. Consider a second day at the Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes or ideally Park Hop over in the evening on a night that it’s available. Wednesday is the best day of the week to see the Main Street Electrical Parade at night, but that isn’t saying a whole lot when your other options are a busy Monday and Saturday. Finally, Mickey’s Christmas Party does feature the special Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular at 9:30pm above Cinderella Castle. This show is viewable from a variety of locations around Disney property. My favorite is the Polynesian Resort’s beach, which is directly across from the Magic Kingdom. The 4th floor observatory at the Contemporary Resort is another excellent location. The boat launch and marina at the Grand Floridian also offer pretty good views, though less direct angles. The boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center also offers an underrated view and it makes for the easiest exit if you’re driving because you’re already at the parking lot. The soundtrack is easiest to hear at the Contemporary, Transportation and Ticket Center, and Polynesian in that order. You might consider taking the monorail or boat to one of the Monorail Deluxe resorts for dinner after the Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and then get into position to enjoy the fireworks around 9:20pm at one of the previously mentioned locations. You can then transfer back to the Magic Kingdom and take a resort bus back to your resort or hop in your car and head wherever you like. Each of the Deluxe resorts have pretty good quick service locations too, so you can also eat on the cheap if you prefer and look around the resort(s) for a while until Holiday Wishes begins.

Wednesday December 17

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Tentatively Recommended For Nighttime Entertainment)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 9pm and 11pm, Wishes Fireworks: 10pm

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 or special evening entertainment going on at the other Parks, which will cause a lot of off-site guests to visit as well. With both yesterday and tomorrow recommended, there’s no reason to visit today. However, if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and able to arrive by 7:30am, you can have a tremendous amount of success from 8am – 10am. But the afternoon is going to be busier than any other day this week.

Epcot is highly recommended. We’re coming off a popular morning Extra Magic Hour yesterday and most Disney resort guests will be waiting to either return or visit for their first time this Friday. Disney resort guests are more likely to head to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will be more popular with the relatively long operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. Plan to arrive by 8:15am 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. Plan to use FastPass+ at Soarin’ or Test Track later in the day when waits are longer. The single rider line at Test Track often has an actual wait shorter than standby or FastPass+, so consider that as an option. You may also want to get in line for Soarin’ or Test Track right before Epcot closes to find shorter waits than the afternoon, but only if you’re willing to give up seeing IllumiNations. Mission: SPACE should have nominal waits before 11am or after 7pm and is a lower priority. If you’re planning just one day in Epcot, try to move up through the World Showcase right at 11am. Return to Future World after 5pm to visit any attractions that you skipped in the morning. Keep in mind that some Future World attractions close at 7pm. Expect Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Captain EO, Living with the Land, Circle of Life, and both Innoventions buildings to accept their last guests of the day at 7pm. Overall, it’s a good day to visit Epcot and a fine day to stay for dinner and IllumiNations, provided you tour efficiently in the morning.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park with Magic Kingdom drawing more guests with the later close and Animal Kingdom being attractive to resort guests. To have the most success, you’ll still want to arrive by 8:15am 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, even with some of the lowest crowds of the year. 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. The only other problem most people run into is trying to schedule all of the stage shows that run on a set schedule. You may also want to prioritize characters that will have longer afternoon waits. The Toy Story characters across from Toy Story typically meet beginning at 9am and have the longest afternoon waits. Sofia the First usually has the second longest waits and meets in Animation Courtyard beginning at 9:30am. Phineas & Ferb also see long lines. They typically begin appearing at 9:30am, which means you’ll have time to ride Toy Story Mania before heading over to the Toy Story characters and then over to Sofia or Phineas & Ferb, which are located 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 later in the day 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. Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Chip, Dale, Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto are all common, but no specific character is guaranteed to appear. For Fantasmic, consider 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 first show. You’ll still need to arrive at least 20 minutes early, but it’s better than the 60+ minutes early you’ll need to arrive without the package. The Dining Package 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 credits as it would otherwise) and includes the appetizer. If you’re not interested in the Package or it’s sold out, try to see the second show. It’s less crowded and you don’t need to worry about two sections reserved for Dining Package users. As far as general seating is concerned, the best seats are about half way up in the center sections. Sit 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 tentatively recommended, though this will be the third busiest day of the week there with the longer hours of operation and nighttime entertainment luring more casual vacationers in the middle of the week than usual. With no Electrical Parade scheduled until Saturday, today will be more popular than either of the next two days. 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 priorities 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 Wishes. 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 6pm 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+ in the afternoon when waits peak. 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, stake out a spot along the Parade route in Frontierland or Liberty Square for the 11pm Parade. Both areas are significantly less crowded than Main Street and offer a similar view. The later Parade is less crowded because so many families leave immediately after Wishes, if they even make it that late. If you’re not interested in the nighttime entertainment, visit Tomorrowland after 9pm and Fantasyland after 10pm to find significantly shorter waits than the afternoon.

Thursday December 18

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

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

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Festival of Fantasy 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. We have few people headed to Magic Kingdom with the short hours of operation. 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 the most recommended Park. Tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more attractive to Disney resort guests. Magic Kingdom’s morning Extra Magic Hour will help pull resort guests and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios continues to draw crowds. 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 use FastPass+ at Soarin or Test Track because they will have 60+ minute waits for most of the day after 10:30am due to popularity and relatively low capacities. Getting in line right before Park close will also result in a short wait if you can’t ride any other time. Move on to the World Showcase beginning around 11am if crowds begin to build in Future World. 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 and IllumiNations.

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 tentatively 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 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 will cause many of them to head elsewhere. Off-site visitors are much more likely to visit on a day with longer operating hours and both nighttime spectaculars. 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 19

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Recommended)

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

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: none, Wishes Fireworks: none

Animal Kingdom is recommended. Epcot will be more popular with Disney resort guests with evening Extra Magic Hours and Hollywood Studios will remain busy with Fantasmic and the Osborne Lights. All in all, you can have a lot of success if you arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing in the morning. After getting those two attractions out of the way, head over to DinoLand USA for Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR, over to the popular character greetings, or over to one of the two most popular stage shows – Finding Nemo the Musical and/or Festival of the Lion King. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get crowded later in the day and the first show is always the least crowded and will require the shortest wait to get good seats. If you arrive later, you may need to rely on FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest. Expedition Everest also has a “single rider line” that is usually short if you’re willing to split the group up. You’ll find it to the right of the standby line. Plan to stay through close if you couldn’t get to the headliners earlier in the day or if you’d like to return to any other attractions because crowds only dissipate in the afternoon and more and more people leave. Return to DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to find much shorter waits than the afternoon. Overall, it’s a great day to visit Animal Kingdom if you need a day there. If you’re looking to extend your day, you may want to book a dinner reservation right around Park close. Disney will run buses for at least 90 minutes after Park close to get you back to your Disney resort and most restaurants accept bookings right up until close. You may also want to visit the BoardWalk or Downtown Disney, both of which are popular dining/shopping destinations. Of course, you can also Park Hop over to Magic Kingdom for the nighttime entertainment, Epcot for IllumiNations, or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic. If you do plan to head elsewhere, you’ll most likely want to take a sizable afternoon break.

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 a decent 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. With Extra Magic Hours only being two hours now, wait times at Soarin’ and Test Track won’t ease much until after 11pm. However, other attractions will see nominal waits and it’s a great time to take in Epcot’s natural ambiance and hit a few of the less popular/high capacity attractions. Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual. Overall, there’s no reason to visit Epcot today because crowds will be higher than any other day during the week and waits at Soarin’ and Test Track will be just as long as they were during the day until at least 10:30pm.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. We have short hours and no evening entertainment during regular Park hours at Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s most popular theme park. While Epcot will be popular with Disney resort guests, a lot of off-site visitors will be saving the Studios and Fantasmic for tonight. While there’s nothing specific drawing people towards the Studios in particular, we can still expect to be busier than any of the past three days. It should be avoided unless you can’t visit another day. Tomorrow will be busier with the morning Extra Magic Hour, so take that into consideration if you need to visit today or tomorrow.

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 Christmas Party days that you’ll actually be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Most off-site vacationers will hold off until tomorrow for the longer hours, Main Street Electrical Parade, and Wishes and a lot of Disney resort guests will have visited yesterday for the morning Extra Magic Hour and the Electrical Parade. All of this leaves us with ample opportunity to get on the headlining and Fantasyland rides with minimal waits. 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. Use FastPass+ in the afternoon when wait times peak 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. Ideally, you would Park Hop over to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon or evening after spending the majority of your day at a Park with lower crowds. Either way, focus on getting the most popular attractions out of the way today and return to the Magic Kingdom for the nighttime spectaculars on another date. With only one day to spend at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to decide whether seeing Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade are worth spending the day in heavier crowds.

Saturday December 20

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

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Recommended)

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Fantasmic: 6:30pm and 8pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 12am (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 12am – 2am

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 10:15pm, Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park. We don’t have Extra Magic Hours, special events, evening entertainment, or anything else to attract on-site or off-site visitors. Those leaving tomorrow after a traditional weeklong vacation are unlikely to visit Animal Kingdom on their last full day and most arriving today won’t head out to Animal Kingdom as their first destination. As always, you’ll be best off if you arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. Wait times will only get shorter after 3pm as people begin exiting in droves, so stay through close if you have more you’d like to accomplish visiting DinoLand after 4pm and Asia after 5pm to minimize waits.

Epcot is recommended as we come off of a much busier day yesterday with evening Extra Magic Hours attracting the bulk of the Disney resort crowd. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios will be attracting the majority of off-site and on-site visitors with long hours and plentiful evening entertainment. The only problem is Epcot’s popular Christmas program will bring in additional locals over the weekend. 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’. If Character Spot is a priority, visit after 7pm when waits will be shorter than the afternoon and you won’t have to waste precious morning time. It’s also an excellent day to stay for IllumiNations and enjoy the World Showcase in the afternoon because a lot of people will have their eyes on the Electrical Parade and Fantasmic.

Hollywood Studios is not recommended. The sizable Disney resort contingent numbers 75,000+ people. Because Disney sells the Extra Magic Hour program so well in its marketing materials, many of these Disney resort guests follow the Extra Magic Hours schedule because they think it’s Disney telling them where they belong each day. While you can have success if you are Extra Magic Hours eligible and arrive by 7:15am, most people will want to visit another day. Avoid it unless you can’t visit any other day or are certain you’ll arrive by 7:15am and plan to hit Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours first thing in the morning. This past Thursday was the best day of the week to visit.

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 over the coming week, not to mention the evening Extra Magic Hours that will attract the bulk of the resort crowd headed out tomorrow. You can do well from 9am – 11am and in the late evening, 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. If you’re planning to visit during evening Extra Magic Hours, begin in Adventureland or Frontierland because most people will head straight for Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. Visit Tomorrowland or Fantasyland in the final hour to find shorter waits. 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 21

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 in the afternoon, 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 and 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 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. Sofia the First in Animation Courtyard is also popular.  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.  Daisy Duck, Chip, Dale, Stitch, 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 22

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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, Christmas Eve, 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 (with FastPass+)’ first thing in the morning or follow a more compartmentalized two-day touring plan.  Move up to World Showcase beginning at 11am.  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.  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.  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.

Tuesday December 23

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 26th.  This will attract a ton of resort guests that are looking to visit another Park today before heading to Magic Kingdom tomorrow or Thursday.  Casual vacationers won’t be far behind. Tomorrow and Thursday are far and away the best days 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 evening Extra Magic Hours that will attract many of the 100,000+ guests staying on property.  Tomorrow and Thursday won’t be much better, but yesterday and Friday will be much more tolerable.  You can have success first thing in the morning and from 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 Eve and Thursday will be worse 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+ as early as 10:30am.  Most people will want to start with Mine Train, 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 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 75 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 second Main Street Electrical Parade in Frontierland or Liberty Square.  Many families leave soon after 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, Peter Pan’s Flight, and finally Mine Train.  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 24

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Epcot: 9am – 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: 9am – 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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 second 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.

Epcot is not recommended as it will be extremely crowded for Christmas Eve.

Hollywood Studios is recommended despite the evening Extra Magic Hours, which will only attract a few resort guests on Christmas Eve. With the late close, evening Extra Magic Hours are a good time to tour and the early morning will also be excellent. Tour efficiently from 8am – 10am and/or 9pm – 12am and you can have a very good day, but waits will remain extremely long in the afternoon with the high overall crowd level and limited number of attractions.

Magic Kingdom is not recommended with today and tomorrow being two of the top ten busiest days of the year at Magic Kingdom. You can still do well from 7am – 10am and 10pm through close, but 11am – 9pm is going to be extremely crowded.

Thursday December 25

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Epcot: 8am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

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

Illuminations: 10:30pm

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

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom is the most recommended Park, like it is most major holidays. Few people equate it with “Disney magic” and they’ll naturally choose one of the two original theme parks decked out for the holidays – either Epcot or Magic Kingdom.  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 in the early afternoon with no nighttime entertainment to keep them around 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 9pm 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 evening Extra Magic Hours will only serve to attract more resort guests than usual.  The lines at Soarin’ and Test Track will be well over 150 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’ or 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 highly recommended, though it will still be busy with the high overall crowd level and waits will be long from 10am – 6pm with the limited number of attractions.  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. It’s imperative that you arrive by 8am and tour efficiently in the first two hours or arrive later and rely on FastPass+.  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.

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.

Friday December 26

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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

Illuminations: 10:30pm

Hollywood Studios: 8am – 11pm (Recommended)

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

Magic Kingdom: 8am – 11pm (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: 10:15pmpm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 17th.  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 Christmas and they’ll be looking to do the other theme parks after.  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’ (with FastPass+).  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. 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.  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 recommended. Tomorrow’s evening Extra Magic Hours will be more popular with Disney resort guests and they’ll be headed to Animal 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, and Tower of Terror 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.  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, Sofia the First in Animation Courtyard, 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 or in the last 45 minutes they’re scheduled to appear.  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 Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Stitch, Chip, Dale, Goofy, 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 recommended as we come off two busier days for the Christmas holiday. The evening Extra Magic Hours are not much of a concern and will be an excellent time to tour, as will the early morning from 7am – 10am. The middle of the day will remain extremely crowded with long waits virtually everywhere. Plan to take a lengthy break or visit only the highest capacity attractions while mixing in FP+ opportunities from 11am – 9pm. Consider a late arrival if you’re eligible to stay for evening Extra Magic Hours and able to stay through close. Waits will only decrease after 10pm as most families leave. See the second Electrical Parade, visit Tomorrowland after 12am and Fantasyland after 1:30am and you’ll find much shorter waits than any time of day outside of the first 90 minutes of operation.

Saturday December 27

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 lowest.  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’ or Test Track immediately.  Move up through World Showcase right at 11am, 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 five rides, including Great Movie Ride  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 6:35am, 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 second Main Street Electrical Parade.  It will be much less crowded than the first 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 Peter Pan’s Flight, Winnie the Pooh, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Mine Train and most other attractions.  Expect Peter Pan’s Flight to hit 70 to 100 minutes and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to hit 180 minutes over the course of the day and drop to 10 minutes in the final hour.

Sunday December 28

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

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 on the 30th and 31st. Tomorrow also works if you have other plans today.  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 29

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade: 12:30pm and 3:30pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 10:15pm and 12:15am, Holiday Wishes Fireworks: 9pm

Animal Kingdom is going to be busier today than it will be on the 31st and is thus not recommended.  Your best theme park to visit on New Year’s Eve 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 at Magic Kingdom today/tomorrow and at Epcot and Hollywood Studios on December 31st, 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.  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 not recommended with the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting the bulk of the resort crowd. You can have success if you arrive by 6:30am, but anyone ineligible for Extra Magic Hours or with plans to arrive later in the morning should stick to a less crowded recommended day.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park and the only one without Extra Magic Hours.  The only thing we have to worry about is the number of people who will be headed to Epcot and Magic Kingdom tomorrow and on the 31st 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 and Tower of Terror 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, Sofia the First in Animation Courtyard, or Sorcerer Mickey and the Incredibles in the Animation Building by getting in line about 10 minutes before they’re scheduled to appear or in the last hour they’re scheduled to appear.  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 or late at night if they are of interest, particularly because they don’t offer FastPass+.  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 remains recommended as we look at two much busier days with the New Year’s Eve fireworks. If you’re Extra Magic Hours eligible, you’ll enjoy a ton of success from 7am – 10am. Those ineligible should arrive by 7:40am and waits will remain short at most attractions for at least the first 90 minutes. The late night is also an excellent time to tour – visit Tomorrowland after 11pm and Fantasyland after 12am to find much lower waits than the afternoon.

Tuesday December 30

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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 75+ minute waits at Spaceship Earth.  We may even see a 60+ 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’ (with FastPass+).  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. Animal Kingdom and Epcot will be more popular with the morning Extra Magic Hours and Magic Kingdom will be popular with the evening Extra Magic Hours and test run of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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, Mine Train, 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.

Wednesday December 31

Note that the operating hours and advice reflect the changes Disney is likely to make to the schedule – not the conservative hours currently available.

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

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 7am – 8am

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 as people leave in the afternoon.  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, 75+ minute waits at Spaceship Earth, 60+ 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 7:15am 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.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Reis June 4, 2014 at 10:16 am

Wow. Saturday, December 20th has a crowd level of 71! That will be a wild day. :)

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Carl June 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

Thanks so much Josh! We are coming for our 25th wedding anniversary and you are making it so much easier to plan for a special time!

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Adam June 5, 2014 at 6:09 am

Thank you!

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Ezra June 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for everything josh! Can’t wait to get your book. My family’s going over Christmas break. Any idea how soon you’ll have the end of December. I depend on your website for all our vacation plans. Thanks again!

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Psac June 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

Glad we’re flying back on December 20th. Like Reis said, we’re glad we’re missing the 71, that’s one heck of a large crowd!!! :)

Thanks Josh as always, fantastic stuff.

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karin delvalle June 7, 2014 at 5:27 am

Hi Josh do you know when your book is going to be released? and will it be in ebook form? Thanks

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Anonymous June 8, 2014 at 9:42 am

Thank you so much for your hard work! It makes planning our trips easier. I’m sad that Hollywood Studios is only recommended 2/9 days we plan to be in the parks (from Dec 4-12) since that is our favorite park. I guess we will have to figure out another strategy or park hop and just visit it in the morning!

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Patrick Crenshaw June 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Howdy, and LOVE your site (more fun than CNN, MMA, and Candy Crush combined!). When do you think you might be able to finish up your December 2014 Crowd Calendar? We are traveling at/near Christmas week and would like to build our dining plan itinerary based on your ‘best park’ recommendations. Heck, if you are at WDW this Christmas, I’ll buy you a steak, or ten!

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Brenda June 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm

We plan on going December 14-21 to Florida. Is there anything you can help me with? I want to make an itinerary so we don’t miss anything major. Please help. I have a house rented so not staying in a resort. I want to reserve dining at the Beauty and Beast restaurant. Which room do you recommend? What is this Fast Pass. How long does each park take?

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Shannon June 18, 2014 at 10:32 am

Hello!
Thanks for the great information! I see that January came out today, but I don’t see the details for the end of December. Is it safe to go with the calender that is posted for December? Thanks so much!

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Shannon W. June 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Thanks Josh for all of your hard work! I only see your calender going through Saturday the 20th. I look forward to seeing the rest of December:)

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Linda A June 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Josh! Love your site! Any idea when the rest of December will be done. Really looking forward to it.

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Linda A June 23, 2014 at 9:01 am

Wow! As soon as I pressed enter…it appeared like MAGIC! Thank you so much!

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Carl June 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

Thank you so much for the update! Love your site!

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Barb July 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

What is the Pop Warner Party?? I don’t see a description of it anywhere?

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Barb July 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm

What is the Pop Warner Party at Hollywood Studios?? I don’t see a description of it anywhere??

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Celia August 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Hey Josh, do you know what time they will start the parade taping on that Saturday, Dec. 6? That will be my departure day but it might be fun to go over for a while and watch the spectacle since I have decided I probably will not do MVMCP. I have to be at the airport by 2pm and will have a rental car, so could stay as long as possible and leave from the park.

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Patrick October 19, 2014 at 11:15 am

Love the site. Great work. Will be visiting family at Christmas and have just one day to spend at parks. Looking at choosing between the 20th and the 22nd of December. I see you have both days rated the same, but do you have a recommendation for either one over the other? Will likely be trying to hit Epcot and AK. Thanks!

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