We’ll hop on the ferry over to Magic Kingdom to see what’s fresh on the morning of Friday May 8th.

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Best Disney World Value Resort Hotel

by josh on May 7, 2015

Updated 5/7/15

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Value Resorts

With dedicated bus transportation and updated furnishings, it was once easy to recommend Pop Century as the clear winner in the Best Value Resort category. With Art of Animation bringing newer rooms, dedicated bus transportation, and flashier theming in September 2012, that distinction became less clear. Add room refurbishments at the All-Stars and higher pricing at Pop Century and Art of Animation and the line begins to blur even more.

On the other hand, Art of Animation’s over-the-top theming, particularly inside the rooms, may not be for everyone. And the All-Stars may still share buses, causing longer, less comfortable bus rides when standing is more common. Luckily, picking the right Value resort for your group should be easy if you consider the following categories.

Best Theme/Landscaping

  1. Art of Animation
  2. All-Star Movies
  3. Pop Century
  4. All-Star Music
  5. All-Star Sports

Art of Animation is the clear winner in the “best theme” category, particularly when the richly detailed Cars and Finding Nemo sections are considered.

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Just a heads up on a few changes to the operating schedule. Those visiting in November may remember recall that the Extra Magic Hours for Epcot over the first week were omitted from the original Park hours release. It turns out that Epcot will be running evening Extra Magic Hours on Tuesday 3rd and morning Extra Magic Hour on Thursday November 5th. This doesn’t affect the recommendations, but if you were planning to visit for morning Extra Magic Hour or evening Extra Magic Hours then you may find yourself changing plans slightly.

Disney also extended closes at Animal Kingdom on four dates in May:

Thursday May 14: Park close changed from 5pm to 6pm.

Saturday May 16: Park close changed from 7pm to 8pm.

Tuesday May 19: Park close changed from 6pm to 7pm.

Saturday May 23: Park close changed from 7pm to 8pm.

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5/1/15 Update: Each Cheat Sheet has been updated with new maps, touring plans, strategies, and wait times.

Animal Kingdom:

Full Cheat Sheet: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/ak_cheatsheet_v3.pdf

Map Only: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/ak_map_v3.pdf


Full Cheat Sheet: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/ep_cheatsheet_v3.pdf

Map Only: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/ep_map_v3.pdf

Hollywood Studios:

Full Cheat Sheet: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/hs_cheatsheet_v3.pdf

Map Only: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/hs_map_v3.pdf

Magic Kingdom:

Full Cheat Sheet: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/mk_cheatsheet_v3.pdf

Map Only: http://www.easywdw.com/cheatsheets/mk_map_v3.pdf

Open up Magic Kingdom and follow along.

The first page is a map that’s been color-coded based on the best time to visit the various attractions. Red attractions are your top morning priorities or best saved for the very end of the day. Yellow attractions are best visited in the first/second hour of operation or in the last two hours. They’re a lower priority than the red attractions because waits build slower and peak lower.  Green attractions are designated “anytime,” which is another way of saying they’re best saved for the afternoon when waits at the higher priority attractions are longer.  Most shows are designated “green” because you want to save them for the afternoon or evening when waits are longer at the major attractions. Occasionally a show will be “yellow,” which means it’s more likely to fill to capacity and seeing the first or last showtime is more important. Attractions that offer FastPass+ are followed by a +. FastPass+ kiosks are noted with the FP+ symbol. Also included are bathrooms, quick services, restaurants, and the larger stores.

Moving along to the next page…

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We’ll head out to Animal Kingdom on the morning of Friday April 24th, 2015. I’m in the process of updating the various cheat sheets, so this should give us a good idea about whether or not our touring strategies are up to date. What the cheat sheet says:


According to the crowd calendar:

Animal Kingdom is recommended with Epcot attracting resort guests with evening Extra Magic Hours. Hollywood Studios is a better choice in most scenarios and some guests may want to take advantage of being able to see both nighttime spectaculars at Magic Kingdom, but Animal Kingdom works very well too. As always, arrive prior to Park opening and take care of Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest first thing and/or stay through close because waits only decrease as people leave in the afternoon.

What happened:

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5/4/15 Update: Epcot’s evening Extra Magic Hours are scheduled on Tuesday November 3rd and the morning Extra Magic Hour is scheduled on Thursday the 5th, instead of the other way around.

4/22/15 Update: Added daily analysis for Thanksgiving and the end of the month.

4/19/15 Update: Daily analysis added for first three weeks. Thanksgiving will be available shortly. Just confirming anticipated crowds and expected operating hours.

This is the Free November 2015 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 four major theme parks. 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-11pm.
  • The seventh line lists the Fantasmic show times at the Hollywood Studios.
  • The eighth line lists the start time of Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP:) and Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom(W:). For example, if you see, MSEP: 9pm & 11pm W: 10pm, it would mean that Main Street Electrical Parade begins at 9pm and 11pm and Wishes begins at 10pm.

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

Click the image to enlarge it.

Sunday November 1

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 6pm (Recommended)

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 7pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 7pm – 9pm

Fantasmic: 7pm

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

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

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

Animal Kingdom is recommended. Disney resort guests are more likely to visit Wednesday 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. 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 and/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 around 3pm 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 will be busy again for the International Food and Wine Festival. Many locals know how busy Saturdays are and they wait until Sunday to visit. Others will wait until Sunday to visit because they’re more interested in the special events scheduled that day. Because the Food and Wine Festival runs every day during the week, there’s really no benefit to visiting over the weekend if you have flexibility in which day you visit, unless you’re planning to attend a special event or workshop that is only offered on the weekend. For most locals, visiting on the weekend is much more convenient than trying to swing a weekday visit. You can find success if you arrive by 8:15am and head straight for Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, Mission Space, and Soarin’, but you would be much better off waiting until tomorrow to visit when you won’t need to worry as much about Food and Wine crowds. The World Showcase will be busier than usual in the afternoon and evening. Tomorrow is significantly better.

Hollywood Studios will be busy due to the evening Extra Magic Hours that are popular with Disney resort guests. It’s also more likely Disney will extend the close and add a second Fantasmic, which will make the Park more popular with off-site visitors. The morning will be an okay time to tour, but crowds will increase by 10am 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, at least until 8pm when people begin to give up and exit. In addition, 9,000+ people will exit Fantasmic at 7:30pm, 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, Wednesday, or Friday would be better if you can swing any of those dates.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park. The short hours and lack of evening entertainment will cause a lot of casual vacationers to head elsewhere. We’re in between yesterday’s very popular longer hours of operation/both nighttime spectaculars/Extra Magic Hours and have a similar schedule tomorrow. 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 on their first full day. Tomorrow will be significantly more crowded. If you’re looking to visit Magic Kingdom over two days, then you may want to visit on a Mickey’s Party date and another day where you can enjoy the nighttime spectaculars. 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 Halloween 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 the least crowded day of the week at Magic Kingdom and most people should take advantage by hammering out the priority attractions.

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This is what we’re looking at for November. Click to enlarge or view as a prettier PDF. And if you don’t know what the numbers/letters mean, read the top of this post. The full operating schedule is available here.

November 2015 is similar to 2014 for the most part, though there are some major differences. The first is the Extra Magic Hours schedule, which departs quite a bit from past years with Magic Kingdom hosting morning Extra Magic Hour on Mondays (historically it’s been Thursdays) and evening Extra Magic Hours on Wednesdays (historically it’s been Saturdays and before that Sundays), and Animal Kingdom moves one of its morning Extra Magic Hours from Sundays to Fridays. That schedule continues after the Food and Wine Festival concludes on the 16th and into the week of Thanksgiving, with its long operating hours and lack of Mickey’s Christmas Parties.

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Just a heads up that Disney changed the close at Hollywood Studios on Saturday October 24th from 7pm to 6pm and canceled the Fantasmic. Previously, the Studios was not recommended. It may change to “tentatively recommended” so long as you’re able to arrive by 7:25am to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour. Daytime crowds should be relatively minimal with few people park hopping over in the afternoon and evening with no evening entertainment to keep them around and a very early close. Still, most people will want to stick with a day that was previously recommended higher.


Disney made a few changes to the September 2015 operating schedule. Hollywood Studios will close at 9:30pm instead of 8pm each day through the 7th for the Frozen Summer Fun LIVE event. Epcot and Animal Kingdom also switch their Extra Magic Hours on September 20th and 23rd, which should affect the recommendations for that week. Here’s the full operating schedule: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_september.pdf.

Tuesday September 1:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Wednesday September 2:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Thursday September 3:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Friday September 4:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Saturday September 5:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Sunday September 6:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Monday September 7:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9:30pm from 9am-8pm.

Sunday September 20:

  • Animal Kingdom morning Extra Magic Hour canceled.
  • Epcot evening Extra Magic Hours added.

Wednesday September 23:

  • Epcot evening Extra Magic Hours canceled.
  • Animal Kingdom morning Extra Magic Hour added.


Disney made the usual changes to the August 2015 operating schedule. I would expect to see more extensions at Animal Kingdom when Disney next updates the schedule – probably in the middle of July. The full operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_august.pdf. An FAQ follows the list.

Saturday August 1:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-10pm from 9am-8:30pm. Second Fantasmic added at 10:30pm, in addition to 9pm show.
  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Sunday August 2:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-10pm from 9am-8:30pm. Second Fantasmic added at 10:30pm, in addition to 9pm show.
  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Monday August 3:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-7pm from 9am-6pm.
  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-10pm from 9am-8:30pm. Second Fantasmic added at 10:30pm, in addition to 9pm show.
  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

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