Disney Parks: Which Park to Visit When?

If you’ve decided to go to Disney World, you may be wondering how to choose which parks to visit. This post will tell you 5 Ways to Choose Your Days in the parks.

1. Park Hours

Tree of Life v1

Let’s start with the obvious: What time do the parks open and close? You can find a quick answer here on Disney’s page and the hours have been updated for trips through the first week of August. Why is this important? If you have a desire to get an early start but want to go to World Showcase, you may want to reconsider your plan. But if you’ll be having a late flight into Disney and want to start your day in the parks as soon as you arrive, you might not want to head to Animal Kingdom with its early closing time.

Park hours can also help if you’ve got a Park Hopper. If you have a day planned at Animal Kingdom and the park closes but you still want to have fun, what can you do? Just check the hours, see what other parks are still open and move along to the next great thing. This fits right in with our next topic:

2. Extra Magic Hours

Cinderella's Castle

If you’re staying on-site at a Disney property, you have access to Extra Magic Hours. On select days, some parks open an hour earlier while others stay open 3 hours later. Not all attractions will be open but it’s a sure thing that the most popular ones will be (full list here). You can avoid the extra crowds as off-site guests head home and feel like you have the park to yourself. The extra magic hours are available on the park calendars and when you check in you’ll be informed of any changes.

There are some pros and cons to the Extra Magic Hours. Pros: You have limited crowds and shorter lines. Cons: The park closes down many rides and concessions and the park can be much busier during the day before or after the magic hours occur. Use your best judgment and if you have a Park Hopper option, consider using it. Come to a park for magic hours before moving on to another park or wait to head to a park until it has closed to the public.

3. Special Events

Say goodbye Dragon

Sometimes due to Disney special events, parks might close early or stay open later. Before you go, check if park hours are affected by these events. Another event that affects park hours is Fantasmic! at Disney Hollywood Studios. It’s only performed on select nights (usually Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday at 7:30 & 9:00pm but they can change so check in advance) so if you want to see the show, you’ll want to be there on show day. On the other hand, while you may want to see the show, everyone else just might want to as well. If you expect to see heavy crowds there on this day, it might be worth it just to show up for the show. You’ll want to show up early too because this event gets people lining up 1-2 hours early for the best seats. Don’t worry though, even with a long line you might be able to get a good seat. I’m not sure that there is a bad seat in he theatre though. If you’re worried about getting a seat though, there is another option.

4. Disney Dining

Le Cellier Steak

You may want to choose your park based on the meals you eat. A Fantasmic! dinner package might be a way to ensure you see a show you want to catch.

You also might want to make a list of must-eat places for your trip and work on getting a Disney dinner reservation. Chances are if you want to eat somewhere, other people will want to too.  So if you’re starting your trip plan to Epcot on Tuesday but the only Le Cellier lunch reservation is on Wednesday, you might want to change things up. This is a time a Park Hopper might come in handy. You cannot enter a park for a meal reservation unless you have a ticket that allows your admission for that day. If you’ve already been to Magic Kingdom for the day but have a meal reservation in Epcot, without a Park Hopper you’ll be out of luck. If you don’t have a Park Hopper, that’s okay. Just make sure to stay in the park where your reservations are and make sure all your meals will be inside that park for the day.

5. Crowd Levels

So we’ve covered planning a trip by choosing to avoid bad hours, paying attention to events and by choosing your meals. But what if you just want to go to whichever park will have the shortest lines? This is where the magic of Touring Plans comes in. Using past levels and knowledge of the special events calendar, they come up with an estimate of how many people will be in each park. Touring Plan’s Crowd Calendar will let you see the next month’s estimated crowds for free though a full calendar year does require a subscription.

The calendar gives you info on how high the crowd levels will be, the best parks to help you avoid crowds, and the busiest park of the day. I thought I knew better than the Crowd Calculator on Day 3 of my Disney trip and as you can see, I paid the price with long lines. If you’re really worried about crowds, one option might be to get a subscription and check out the calendar before making your dinner reservations. That way you can stay in one park, not lose precious ride time by traveling, and still go on as many rides as possible.

With good planning, you might just be able to catch some extra times on extra rides. The average Disney guest only gets on 9 rides a day. Use these tips to be above average and make the best of your next trip.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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