By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Park Closings at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

WALT DISNEY WORLD PARK CLOSINGS

When Walt Disney World theme parks become, in Disney’s judgment, too crowded, it begins to close them to new guests.

  • Disney World park closures happens most commonly during the Christmas-New Year’s periods, Easter Week, and the Fourth of July.
  • The theme park most commonly closed is the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot is the least commonly closed.

Some visitor types are more at risk to Disney World park closures than others.

WHO HAS THE MOST AND LEAST RISK OF BEING TURNED AWAY FROM A DISNEY THEME PARK

Disney has several levels of theme park closure–ranging from turning away only those who are driving their own car to its theme park parking lots to closing a park to all new visitors.

You will be most at risk to park closure if you are not staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, have not yet purchased your tickets when you arrive at the park, and are driving or using something other than Walt Disney World transportation to arrive at the parks.

You will be least at risk if you are a Walt Disney World resort hotel guest, already have your tickets, and use Disney transportation to get to the park.

These varying risks come from the sequence of procedures Disney uses to limit access to a Disney World theme park that is becoming crowded. 

  • First it closes the park’s parking lot, excluding new car-based arrivals
  • Second, it excludes all other transportation except that from the Walt Disney World resort hotels.  That is, the park will be closed to taxis, buses from off-site hotels, etc.
  • Third, it stops selling tickets
  • Finally, it closes the park entirely to everyone

Walt Disney World resort hotel guests who have tickets and use Disney transportation (Disney buses, boats and monorails) are affected only by the last closing stage.

Other visitor types can be affected by any of the stages.

SOME SUBTLETIES ABOUT PARK CLOSINGS

Parks that fully close can re-open later that day, which makes resorts within walking distance–the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower at the Magic Kingdom, and the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club at Epcot–particularly valuable.

From the Epcot resorts you can walk not only to Epcot but also to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which makes these resorts particularly flexible at times of the year with horrible crowds.

Disney World resort hotel guests are guaranteed access to “a” park–which means that not more than three parks will ever be entirely closed.

The open parks may not include the one you wish, so on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Easter Sunday, and the Fourth of July, it’s good to plan to be at Epcot anyway–the park least likely to close.

If a park is fully closed, no circumstance will get you in until it re-opens–not the fact that you were there earlier in the day and don’t have a park hopper, nor even that you have a dining reservation in it. 

Fully closed is fully closed.

RELATED STUFF

151 comments

1 sandra zaritsky { 11.13.11 at 10:32 pm }

i’m arriving by ship on dec. 25th about 1 pm. is there a good chance i (and my guests)could be turned away. we need to return to the ship at 11 pm…thank you

2 Dave { 11.14.11 at 4:42 am }

yes, this is the most common day for ride closures…and that is a common time

3 Teri { 11.15.11 at 1:58 pm }

We had planned to arrive at Magic Kingdom by 2:30 on New Year’s Eve. We are staying at an off-site resort. Is it likely that we will be turned away?

4 Dave { 11.16.11 at 9:37 am }

Hi Teri, there’s a good chance you will be.

5 kay { 11.17.11 at 5:49 am }

Hi were a family of 3 adults 1 teen and 1 5year old due to arrive from our uk flight at lake buena vista area at 7pm new years eve which theme park would you recommend we head to to see the new year in….! thanks

6 Dave { 11.17.11 at 9:38 am }

Hi Kay–Epcot. It’s least likely to be closed.

7 Cliff { 11.19.11 at 11:56 am }

Hi, is that possible Epcot will be available for the whole night? I mean, we go there around 10:30pm? A cheap flight for us to Orlando will arrive at 8:37pm. Thanks!

8 Dave { 11.19.11 at 4:23 pm }

Hi Cliff, Epcot is scheduled to close at 1a. The rides will all stop admitting people then, but I don’t know how quickly they will force people to leave the park. On “normal” days you can usually shop and such for a while after official closing…

9 JC { 11.25.11 at 12:34 am }

Hi there. We are planning to be in the Orlando area from Dec 30th until Jan 2nd and would like to go to Disney to celebrate New Years. What would be the best time to arrive at the Magic Kingdom on the 31st of December in order to guarantee entrance to the park? Also, do they have special tickets or can we buy regular tickets on-line now that would allow us into the park on Dec 31st? Thanks for your time and attention.

10 Dave { 11.25.11 at 9:54 am }

Hi JC!

There are no special tickets. The trick to getting in is to arrive before it opens.

MK is currently scheduled to open at 8a for regular guests, and 7a for Disney hotel guests.

For park calendars, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/05/how-to-use-the-online-park-calendars-at-walt-disney-world/

11 Dave White { 12.08.11 at 2:36 pm }

We are staying at the Floridian and plan on going to Magic Kingdom early on new years Eve, Will we be able to leave Magic Kingdom to go back to the hotel for a dinner reservation and then be able to return to Magic Kingdom after dinner.

12 Dave { 12.08.11 at 9:56 pm }

Dave once you leave MK on 12/31 there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get in. The odds are high you will get back in, but no guarantees once you leave…

13 Reid { 12.09.11 at 10:40 am }

if we show up in the morning at magic kingdom on the 31st, we should not have any problems as long as we stay in the park, right? arriving the 28th so we should be able to be there when it opens. also during the 2nd level of closing, do the downtown disney hotels get considered offsite hotels or disney hotels since the buses used there are not the same?

14 Dave { 12.09.11 at 11:30 am }

Hi Reid. Yes on the first question–once you are in, you are fine. No on the second–the downtown Disney hotels are considered offsite…

15 Michelle { 12.10.11 at 7:33 pm }

Now I’m stressed after reading all this. Our family of five (staying off-site) is planning to go to Magic Kingdom on Dec 31, 11. I just checked the calendars on Disney and they aren’t showing anything open on the 31st(I;m hoping they are just doing some updates). Will we even be able to get in the parking lot if we arrive at 7am and then the park when it opens at 8 if we are waiting at the entrance with our tickets?

16 Dave { 12.11.11 at 9:22 am }

Hi Michelle, if you arrive early you should be fine. Closings, if they happen, usually start mid-morning…

17 Tom { 12.16.11 at 10:06 pm }

We have previous park hopper passes with no exp. for us and 1 child, now we have 3 kids. We are staying at the Swan. Is it worth it to buy a park hopper for the other 2 kids if we are planning to do magic kingdom first and then Epcot on the 31st?

18 Dave { 12.17.11 at 11:29 am }

Hi Tom, I may not be understanding your question, but if you plan to do two parks in one day, then everyone needs a hopper…

19 Gabriel { 12.17.11 at 7:53 pm }

Hi Dave! I am also very concerned about this, I will be arriving to MK with two kids anf my wife around 4 or 5 pm on Dec 31st, 2011 Is it a bad idea? Will we be able to get to at least Epcot? Thanks a lot for your advice.

20 Dave { 12.18.11 at 9:42 am }

Hi Gabriel! It’s hard to sya. Your chances are worse if you are trying to drive and park, best if you are staying at a WDW hotel and taking DIsney transport…

21 pratik { 12.19.11 at 11:37 pm }

hi
this is our first trip to orlando..we are starting our trip to disney parks from 28 th dec to 2nd jan 2012.. can u suggest how we can plan our days between all 4 theam parks between above dates & suggest where we should celebrate our new year either MK or EPCOT? we are group of 11 people in which 6 adults & 5 kids between age to 5 to 12 years . also what time we have to reach to the park atleast to get entry on the new year 31st dec 2011?…

22 romina { 12.20.11 at 1:42 am }

hi, we r a family of 2 adult 2 kids and u r planning to go to MK or epcot for new year eve, if we r at epcot that day early it is posible to go to magic kingdom (we r getting the anual pass) even if magic kingdom is close? thaks, romina

23 Dave { 12.20.11 at 10:20 am }

Hi Pratik, my advice will be different if you are staying at a Disney hotel vs. staying off-site, so let me know which! Dave

24 Dave { 12.20.11 at 10:35 am }

Hi Romina, if MK is clsoed to everyone–which it may be–you can’t get in. Otherwise it’s possible…

25 Stef { 12.21.11 at 9:39 am }

We are planning to get to Epcot at noon on New Years Eve .. we have ticket vouchers but are staying at an off-site hotel (Orlando Marriott). They will provide us a shuttle to the park. Do you think we will be okay at 12pm on NYE at Epcot WITH ticket vouchers??

26 Dave { 12.21.11 at 10:26 am }

Hi Steff, you should be fine!

27 Carolyn { 12.28.11 at 12:32 am }

Hi there! I’m staying at a Disney resort (Swan), have an annual pass and will be using Disney transportation to Magic Kingdom on New Years Eve and will arrive around 8pm. What are the chances of getting turned away?? (I’m crossing my fingers!)

28 Dave { 12.28.11 at 8:08 am }

Hi Carolyn! The bus won’t go to MK from the Swan unless the park is open to you–so that helps a bit. There will be a lot of departures from MK after the 3.30p parade, so 6p is better than 8p!

29 SquareAce { 12.28.11 at 11:12 am }

Arriving at WDW resort 12/31/2011. We want to go to MK. What time is a safe bet for entering the MK before it closes to WDW resort guests? We were planning to arrive at All-star movies at 10am, then riding the bus from there. We are driving to WDW resort so it is possible for us to arrive earlier.

30 Dave { 12.28.11 at 12:17 pm }

Hi SquareAce. If you can, arrive at Movies even earlier and check in. Your room won’t be ready, but do this so you can get on a bus ASAP. 10a feels late to me…

31 AJ { 12.28.11 at 10:51 pm }

We had planned to go to Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve, but it sounds like it will be overcrowded. What are the crowds like on New Year’s Day? Would it be better to go on New Year’s Day instead?

32 Melissa { 12.28.11 at 11:44 pm }

Hi. We are getting on a very late flight from Miami to the board walk About 10. We can walk to Epcot or Hollywood studios. We have the annual pass. But now I’m afraid they will close the park on me. Do I have priviledge for being an annual owner and for staying at the disney hotel

33 Dave { 12.29.11 at 8:26 am }

Hi AJ! Crowds will be a little better new years day, especially early in the morning.

34 Dave { 12.29.11 at 8:27 am }

Hi Melissa, the pass doesn’t matter much, but you do get special privileges being a WDW hotel guest, as such are the last people that the parks close to.

35 Eve { 12.29.11 at 7:01 pm }

We are staying at The Beach Club and had hoped to spend New Years Eve walking around the countries at Epcot. How early do we have to get there to get in? We were hoping to spend the morning at Animal Kingdom. Is this crazy? We thought we would do Club level snacks at the Beach Club and get to Epcot around 6:30. What time do the parks, in particular epcot start to close to Guests? Thank you.

36 luly { 12.29.11 at 9:54 pm }

Hi,

We are 6 adults & 2 kids, staying off site & are plan on going to Epcot on dec 31, what time do we need to get there in order to secure we get in. Have AAA tickets that need to be exchanged for passes.

Please let me know.

37 Dave { 12.30.11 at 7:47 am }

Eve Epcot hardly ever closes to WDW hotel guests, so you should be fine. Get to AK well before it opens and you should be OK until mid-morning.

38 Dave { 12.30.11 at 7:48 am }

Luly, if you can, get your passes converetd before the 31st. If Epcot closes to off-site guests, it’ll do so mid-late morning, re-open, and close again in the late afternoon/ evening. It rarely does…

39 Elizabeth { 12.30.11 at 11:03 am }

Our family of six is staying at an off site hotel with shuttle to the park. If we arrive right when the gate opens at 8am to Magic Kingdom on 12/31/2011, do you think we would have any problems?

40 Dave { 12.30.11 at 12:39 pm }

Hi Elizabeth–I’d try to arrive at the park by 30-45 mins before its opening, which means (since it takes10-20 minutes ot get there from where your shuttle will drop you off, taking the shuttle that arrives at MK around 7a

41 Shaun G. { 12.31.11 at 2:06 am }

My wife and I have annual passes but, don’t plan on arriving at the MK until around noon… are we going to be turned away? I was told that pass holders have a very good chance of getting in no matter what? Is this true???

42 Dave { 12.31.11 at 9:43 am }

Shaun I can’t tell you for sure. It depends on crowds, which drive which type of park closing–if any–Disney institutes. Some types are tighter than others. If you driving or otherwise are not arriving by Disney transport (Disney hotel buses, etc) you may well be turned away.

43 CHRIS { 01.16.12 at 12:23 pm }

Hi, just a bit of info that may be useful for future new years eves My family and I were staying at a hotel that was on disney resort with scheduled transportation. we had seen details of parks being very busy on new years eve so just before 8pm decided we would get the bus to Epcot and if the monorail was open going to Magic Kingdom we would go there, otherwise we would stay at Epcot, however when waiting at the stop the bus arrived for Magic Kingdom, the driver advised us the park has just been re-opened so we got on, also saw private cars etc being allowed into car parks, got into park at 8.15pm just in time for fabulous firework display, then there was another one at midnight.
It may be that we were just very lucky, but it might be worth trying in future years.

44 Dave { 01.16.12 at 12:27 pm }

Thanks, Chris!

45 Mark { 04.04.12 at 12:53 pm }

OK…so we’re doing everything wrong: traveling the week after Easter, staying offsite (Holiday Inn Express @ Lake Buena Vista)… but do plan on being there the night before our trip begins (scheduled for Tues-Thurs next week). What’s the suggestion for getting in where we want to be (ideally, Magic Kingdom two of the three days) in terms of “motel shuttle vs. our own car?” and “how early is too early to be in the parking lot?” Thanks!

46 Dave { 04.04.12 at 4:34 pm }

Hi Mark. MK official open is 8a all week, but it opens to WDW hotel guests at 7a.

For MK, I’d arrive at the turnstiles by 7a if I were in your shoes. It takes 15-20 mins to get from MK parking to MK turnstiles–whether by motel shuttle or car.

My guess is that the hotel shuttle won’t leave early enough, but if it does, I’d take it, to save the parking money and take one more worry (driving) out of the equation…

47 Beatriz { 06.16.12 at 4:53 pm }

Hi; we are travelling to WDW on new years´s eve and my parents are 81 each; we would like to have dinner at Epcot and we will have the tickets and we are getting by WDW transportation. What time top do you think we must get there in order to enter the park? Thank you

48 Dave { 06.16.12 at 6:43 pm }

Beatriz, why would you want to do that? It’s the busiest day of the year…and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get in (unless you are staying at a WDW hotel…)

49 Beatriz { 06.17.12 at 1:39 pm }

Yes Dave, we are staying at a WDW hotel

50 Dave { 06.17.12 at 2:34 pm }

That’s great! Get your reservations ASAP–they should open around 7/4. You can figure that it’s unlikely Epcot will close to WDW hotel guests, so you are pretty safe starting to try to get there 2-3 hours before your reservation!

51 Jen { 06.25.12 at 8:35 am }

Hi!! My husband, in laws, and 3 year old daughter will be at Disney from Dec 30 to Jan 7. With my daughter and still plenty of days ahead, we probably won’t stay at the park with her until midnight. How is Animal Kingdom that day? Trying to figure out where I want to do our dining plan reservations that day. Thinking of heading to AK and then heading back to the hotel. My husband and I may try to head back out by ourselves but we will see how things go. We are staying at the Art of Animation.

52 Dave { 06.25.12 at 9:04 am }

Jen, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure exactly which day you are asking about…

53 Jen { 06.25.12 at 9:24 am }

Sorry!! New years Eve 2012 🙂

54 Dave { 06.25.12 at 5:19 pm }

Hey Jen, got it. Honestly, with a kid that young, you’re gonna need at least one day off anyway, and I’d take NYE off. First thing in the morning it may be OK…but by 10.30 or so it’ll be packed. Of the parks, AK is a fine choice–MK is worst–but it won’t be good. I would not make an in park meal commitment if I were you for lunch or later as you may not be able to stand being there! For you and your husband, in the evening if you go, I’d advise Epcot…it holds the crowds better…

55 Debi { 06.29.12 at 12:22 am }

We will be spending New Year’s Eve 2012 at WDW and all the above posts have been a wealth of information for planning. Staying at OKW and will follow the suggestions to be at MK for that extra magic hour and stay put to see the late fireworks. It would be nice to have a break in between but sounds like the worst idea would be to leave. I didn’t see my question addressed above and it is re transportation. We will have a car. Can you advise whether it would be best to take Disney transport or car in terms of convenience when returning at the end of the night. I would imagine that there would be lengthy delays with masses of people waiting for the buses and that the car would be quicker.

56 Dave { 06.29.12 at 7:11 am }

Hi Debi! If anything closes, the first thing that closes is the parking lots (and they close to all including those staying at WDW resorts), so I would definitely go by bus…The odds are high, but not certain, that if you leave MK you will be able to return at around 4p. This is because a lot of people leave MK after the 3p parade, so if it does close, it may re-open then…

57 Filly { 07.24.12 at 2:19 pm }

Family of 6 arriving on Dec. 22 -2012 ( Saturday), so which day is best to visit MK – on Sunday 23th or Mon. on 2/24 and how early in AM not to be turned away? We will be staying off-site

58 Dave { 07.24.12 at 6:08 pm }

Filly, as I’m sure you know I don’t like either day…Monday might be a little better. If you don’t arrive before 8.15a you’ll regret it, as you want to be among the first families let in (except for those staying on-site, who can get in at 8a.) Closures I believe are most common in the late morning and early afternoon…

59 Jennifer N { 09.03.12 at 10:32 pm }

Hi. For my daughter’s 18th B-day, she has asked to spend NYE at a WDW park. Since we (4 of us) are staying off site, it seems Epcot is the best choice. Would you agree, and how soon should we arrive? We are at a nearby Marriot, what type of transportation would you suggest? Thanks so much.

60 Dave { 09.04.12 at 6:53 am }

Hi Jennifer…all of the parks will be utterly packed. Epcot is least likely to close. I don’t know if the Marriott has a shuttle–if so, and its times work, that would be easiest. Otherwise you’ll need a car….

61 michelle { 09.04.12 at 9:25 pm }

Dave
If you stay at the Swan or Dolphin for NYE do you receive the same priveleges as any other Disney Resort such as extended hours etc.

62 Dave { 09.05.12 at 6:57 am }

Hi Michelle, yes you do!

63 michelle { 09.05.12 at 2:34 pm }

We are 3 adults which park would you say would be the most exciting to be in at midnight on NYE

64 Dave { 09.06.12 at 7:05 am }

Hi Hellenic, either Epcot or Hollywood Studios

65 Lily from Destinations in Florida { 09.06.12 at 10:28 pm }

I agree with Dave, my favorite is Epcot! It is a great place to be at midnight.

66 Kaelyn { 10.03.12 at 8:50 pm }

Hi Dave! My husband and I are planning to spend NYE at the MK. We are prepared for the crowds and willing to deal with that to have the experience together. We are planning to spend the night of 12/31 at on of the All Star properties, purchase tickets in advance and arrive by car to park at the hotel early a.m. (7:00 ish) on 12/31. Will we be able to check-in to the hotel that early (we won’t want our room, just access to the shuttle), take the shuttle to MK and have access to the “Magic Hour”? I tried to make a lunch and/or dinner reservation with no success. Any suggestions? I was thinking we could leave MK and go to Downtown Disney for dinner and back to MK, but from the previous comments that sounds risky. We do not plan to buy the hopper pass – just one day, one park. Thanks!

67 Dave { 10.04.12 at 6:54 am }

Kaelyn, regarding checking in early and getting your room keys that will let you access the extra magic hour, yes you can do that. As you note, room room likely won’t be ready til much later–3p or so. Downtown Disney likely is sold out of formal dining as well–I don’t think you’ll have much option other than one of the many “quick service” options that don’t take reservations….

68 Sharad { 10.11.12 at 5:19 pm }

Family of 3, staying at the WDW Swan. Does the Swan count as a Disney resort for the purposes of closure priority and opening time? And do the shuttles from the Swan get locked out early?

I plan to buy a 4-day pass in advance; and was hoping to hit each of the parks on 12/27,28,29 and 30. So not Christmas Day or NYE, but still in the high season.

69 Dave { 10.11.12 at 5:47 pm }

Sharad, the Swan is served by the WDW transport system, so you have all the transport and park access privileges of anyone staying at a ‘regular” WDW hotel. The only things you miss by being in the Swan are the Dining Plan and the Magical Express bus to and from the airport.

70 ally { 10.17.12 at 9:44 pm }

We are planning on taking 3kids to MK on christmas day we are staying off site. What time should we arrive?

71 Dave { 10.18.12 at 6:50 am }

Hi Ally, it can Clemson any time, and then re-open, and then close again… I’d aim to arrive before 9a to be absolutely sure.

72 PJ { 10.22.12 at 2:21 pm }

Of the last 5 years how many times did MK close(because of crowds) on NYE? Thanks.

73 Dave { 10.22.12 at 6:36 pm }

Hi PJ–I’m sorry but I haven’t tracked that. My estimate based on recollection is most, but not all years–so 3 or 4…

74 Juan { 11.05.12 at 10:47 am }

I am planning on going to Epcot on Dec 31, 2012 with a relatively large group of around 20 people. We will probably buy tickets in advance, but need to drive there and will not be staying at a Disney resort. We would prefer not to get there too early, but also don’t want to get closed out, which is what happened to me in 2005. At what time approximately should Epcot start to close its doors to further guests?

75 Dave { 11.05.12 at 12:00 pm }

Sorry, Juan, I don’t know…

76 Kaylie { 11.24.12 at 5:07 pm }

Hi Dave,
I have three older kids and want to spend Christmas day in Disney- What park(s) should we go to?

77 Dave { 11.25.12 at 7:13 am }

Hi Kaylie, I can’t recommend any, really, as they will all be wildly busy, but Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios might be better than the other two…neither has a particularly Christmassy feeling–if that’s more what you are looking for, then Epcot is the next best choice…

78 Michelle { 11.25.12 at 10:34 am }

Hi Dave,
Our group of 11 is staying offsite and planning on visiting Epcot on Dec 30. We plan on arriving prior to opening but would like to leave for a break and then return. Does Epcot close frequently on the 30th? Do you think we’d be ok to get back in? Thanks!

79 Dave { 11.25.12 at 1:45 pm }

Michelle, I don’t have facts on historical closings by day–so this is just a guess. I think you will be OK, as there’s no particular reason (other than needing to go somewhere) for people to be at Epcot that day….

80 Amy { 11.28.12 at 7:19 pm }

Do you know anything about the DisneyQuest party on NYE? Sounds like it might be a good alternative to the craziness of the parks but have never been there or even heard of DisneQuest til now. Says family friendly but just wanted to get your thoughts. Kids are 12, 7, and 5. Know there is an additional charge to go there… Thanks!

81 Nicole { 12.05.12 at 1:39 pm }

Hi Dave!
First, thank for all the great info! We,ve been to Disney for spring break, but this is a first for Christmas holidays.
1) our dates are dec. 26-1: our plan is generally hit the parks early, “down time” in the afternoon, and go back at it at night…. Should we be expecting “closures” throughout the week, or just new years?
2) with 2 young kids (8,6) new years sounds overwhelming…what about wilderness….we often will visit the ponies, play at a park and watch the MK fireworks from the beach, the other thought is Disney quest??

82 Dave { 12.06.12 at 7:17 am }

Hi Nicole, and you are welcome! I’m sorry that I don’t have data on park closures by day, but they certainly have happened on days other than NYE. I think your Fort Wilderness idea is fantastic, but would not suggest Disney Quest…

83 Caroline { 12.09.12 at 8:29 pm }

Hi Dave,
My family and I will be going to Walt Disney on New Years day around 9:30 am. Do you think that at that time there is any possibility that we will be turned away?
Also I want to know what Disney does for New Years. Do they light firework or have parades. It would also be helpful if you can tell me a good cheap place to eat inside the park [ 3 adults and a 13 year old]

84 Dave { 12.10.12 at 7:03 am }

Hi Caroline, you should be OK at 9.30a.

For NYE celebrations by park, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/05/21/new-years-eve-20122013-at-walt-disney-world/ There’s hundreds of eating options, but none are cheap.

Once you decide which of the four theme parks you are going to, let me know, and I’ll suggest some counter-service ideas.

85 Paula { 12.18.12 at 1:08 pm }

Hi – This will be our first trip to Disney for NYE, just two adults. I’ve tried every restaurant in Epcot and can’t seem to find any openings from 1pm on! We are staying at the Dolphin hotel but I’m afraid to go back there to eat and not be able to get back into the park. Do you have any suggestions? Is the Dolphin consider a WDW hotel? Do we have a decent shot of getting back in (say 8pm ish). Thanks for your help! 🙂

86 Dave { 12.18.12 at 6:27 pm }

Hi Paula! Yup, I’d suspect those slots have been sold out for a while. For the purposes of park closings, the Dolphin is considered a WDW hotel, and it’s an easy walk from it to Epcot. I’d say you do have a good to great shot at getting back in!

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87 gary { 12.26.12 at 8:35 pm }

hi dave,
if we arrive at the park between 8 am and 9 am do you think the chances of a closure will happen then?

88 Dave { 12.27.12 at 9:20 am }

Gary, at that hour you should be fine!

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89 Laura { 12.27.12 at 9:59 am }

Hi-
Struggling when to visit again. The first week of March (2-9), which I see has lower crowds, but my kids love Splash Mountain, which is closed until 3/19. So….was thinking of visiting the week of March 16-23. How horrible would the crowds be and how often are the parks closed due to capacity being met??

90 Dave { 12.27.12 at 5:01 pm }

Hi Laura! I do think crowds will be rough that week–I’ve got them rated as a 10. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/07/25/disney-world-crowds-2013-spring-break-2013/ However, I don’t think they’ll be so bad that you will face park closures…

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91 Christian { 12.27.12 at 8:28 pm }

Dave,
theoretically, if the Magic Kingdom closes it’s parking lot, does that mean they’ll close the transportation and ticketing center? – Thanks

92 Dave { 12.28.12 at 7:29 am }

Hi Christian. TTC is a key transportation hub, so it will not close…

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93 Leslie { 12.31.12 at 12:10 pm }

We are staying with family and want to see the MK NYE fireworks frm the Polynesian Hotel but not sure about parking. Do you have any suggestions on the best place to park? Downtown Disney and take a bus ?

Thanks!!

94 Dave { 12.31.12 at 2:08 pm }

Leslie, frankly there’s no great options.

Downtown Disney often doesn’t have enough parking even on “normal” days, and its lots will be a zoo today.

Your best bet is likely to park at Epcot (which has the largest parking lot of the theme parks), take the monorail to TTC, and walk to the Poly from there…

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95 Kamille { 03.22.13 at 11:13 pm }

Hi Dave,
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide me.
Unfortunately, my group of 3 could only coordinate our schedules for a visit this upcoming week before Easter. We’re used to low-moderate crowds when we’re at WDW, so this is going to be a new experience for us. We’re fairly flexible for most of the trip except day 1. We arrive very early in the morning of 3/25 around 6:00am to MCO. We have Ohana reservations (tradition) for a late breakfast at 11:25am. Our big priority for the day, however, is our Be Our Guest reservation. The only one we could pull for dinner throughout the entire trip was 8:45pm. I’m worried about the crowds, and the possibility of being closed out. Given that we are unlikely to have check-in ability at our arrival time, we don’t have the option of hanging out at MK all day long. Do you have any recommendations as to timing for MK arrival to ensure that we can make it in for these dining reservations?

96 Dave { 03.23.13 at 2:25 pm }

Hi Kamille, your best bet is probably around 4.15 or 4.30. Many people leave after the 3p parade, so if there is any closure or parking restriction in effect, it may be eased after they leave, get to their cars, and leave the lot.

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97 Larry { 04.06.13 at 5:02 pm }

Hi Dave,
Our Family, consisting of 17 members, will be arriving at Bay Lake Towers on Dec. 30th. We will be flying in from Detroit, arriving at BLT at approximately noon. It is our plan to visit the Magic Kingdom either on Dec 30th or Dec 31st. Depending on your recommendations, we hope to have reservations at the California Grill one of those days with reservations at The Plaza the other day. We will celebrate New Years Eve at the Top of the World Lounge one evening while the other at the Magic Kingdom. What is your recommendation?

98 Dave { 04.06.13 at 6:11 pm }

Larry, both dates will be spectacularly crowded at MK–with 3 hour waits in the afternoons, etc. The 30th will be slightly less crowded–not that you will really notice–so I’d go for the 30th at MK and the 31st at Top of The World.

The California Grill is undergoing renovations right now, and I’m not sure when they will start accepting reservations again. Typically you can reserve beginning 180 days in advance–and as you can imagine, that’ll be a very hot reservation. So I’d aim for 180 days out…if you do end up going at such a massively crowded time of the year…

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99 Chaneymom { 08.31.13 at 8:57 pm }

I am a single mother traveling to Disney 12/28 to 1/4. We are staying at POR and have been to Disney many times, but never over a busy holiday season. I know that the children will want to spend NYE at MK – but from what I have been reading – I wonder if I should consider a different park? I already have dining reservations for the 31st in MK – and I am afraid that if I cannot get into the park that I will be stuck paying if I am a no-show. What time do you think I would have to arrive at the park on the 31st? I was hoping to arrive early afternoon so that my children can rest in the morning so that they can last until midnight. Thank you for any insight or advice that you can share!

100 Dave { 09.02.13 at 8:37 am }

Hi Chaneymom, I can’t give you much specific advice as MK tends to close, re-open, close again, re-open again etc on NYE, and I can’t forecast the times.

If I had to pick a time to go to MK after opening, it would be some time 45 minutes to an hour after the afternoon parade (becasue a lot of people will leave after the parade) …but honestly, I’d just go to AK that day–whihc will be the teals crowded of the WDW parks–and hit MK the 30th, when it will have the exact same NYE program, but slightly lower crowds. See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/05/16/new-years-eve-20132014-at-walt-disney-world/

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101 cathy { 09.11.13 at 1:34 pm }

Hi, I’m arriving at Disney on New Years Eve. If we go to the park, then leave to check into our room, are we likely to get back into the park?

Thank you!

102 Dave { 09.12.13 at 10:08 am }

Cathy, which park, and are you staying in a Disney hotel? If you are targeting MK, and are not in a Disney hotel, I wouldn’t bet on it. If you are in a Disney hotel and targeting AK or Epcot, you should be OK…

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103 Matthew { 10.20.13 at 12:26 pm }

Hello we are staying in the wdw riverside hotel and have made dinner booking for Cinderella’s castle at 9:30 pm nye what is the best time to get to the park in the morning . Also if we cant get in what would happen with our booking thats paid for. We have all the park tickets and use disney bus’s . Thank you

104 Dave { 10.21.13 at 9:56 am }

Matthew, you should be able to get in.

105 Brooke { 11.19.13 at 1:36 am }

Hi Dave! I know most of your comments regarding closings during the holidays are for Christmas or New Year’s Eve/Day. Our first day in the parks will be Jan. 4th. We have reservations for 1900 Park Fare late morning, then were going to go to Hollywood Studios in the afternoon/evening. We really want to make sure we see Osborne Spectacle of Lights (I know they end the 5th), but we have reservations at Epcot on the 5th and we don’t have a park hopper. So, our only chance to see the lights will be the 4th. Do you think there’s any chance of park closings on the 4th? And does HS close very often? We are staying in a condo off property, so I’m nervous about closings. Thanks for your thoughts!

106 Dave { 11.19.13 at 4:33 pm }

Hi Brooke! The 4th is not a good day at HS–the park has morning extra magic hours, so will be crowded when you arrive. However, I don’t think the park will close that day…it’s for many departure day.

What’s your Epcot reservation the 5th? I’d swap those two days in a heartbeat for almost any Epcot meal…

107 Brooke { 11.19.13 at 10:09 pm }

Hey Dave! I knew HS would be busy based on EMH that day. We have reservations for lunch at Akershus on the 5th. Our problem is that my husband’s grandmother is flying into Orlando late afternoon on the 4th and won’t be able to join us for a meal until the 5th. She wants to join us for the princess lunch since she really wants to see the girls in their dresses. The 4th would not be our only day at HS. We have a full day planned for there on Thursday, Jan. 9th. Just wanted to make sure we got there for a half day before the Osborne Lights were taken down. And honestly, if all we get to do is see the lights that day, I will consider it mission accomplished. Does that make any difference in your perspective? : ) I know ideally it would be better to do HS on the 5th, but I just don’t think we can switch our days based on Grandma! Just really hoping it all works out at HS on the 4th…fingers crossed for no closings!

108 Dave { 11.20.13 at 2:42 pm }

Brooke, OK now I get it, and understand your approach!!

109 Crystal b { 11.23.13 at 1:31 pm }

We have Sci-fi dinner reservations 12/11 at 520, I’ve seen that that HS closes at 600 for a pop warner party, will we be rushed out of the restaurant and / or trampled by teenagers?

110 Crystal b { 11.30.13 at 10:13 pm }

Or am I wrong about the early closing?

111 Dave { 12.01.13 at 8:04 am }

Crystal, sorry, I didn’t see the first comment!! You will not be hurried out, and the restaurant itself won’t be trampled by teenagers They will be all over the place when you leave, though!

112 Judy from NSW Australia { 12.26.13 at 9:47 pm }

Oh dear this plan of mine is sounding like a nightmare…it sounds much worse than Sydney on NYE, but, here goes…We are arriving in Orlando on 29th Dec , from NSW Australia, staying at a resort on Turkey Lake Road for 1 week. We will have a car, but I think the resort has a shuttle to Disneyworld. I would love to spend NYE at Magic Kingdom or any of the parks which have fireworks. What is EPCOT?
I have had a lot of trouble phoning the ticket office from Australia and have been a bit fearful of ordering the tickets on line. I had been worried about getting in if I had booked a lunch or dinner reservation, but they’re all gone now it appears anyway. What are your thoughts?
Thanks Judy

113 Dave { 12.27.13 at 8:28 am }

Judy, what I’d do is celebrate NYE a night early, on 12/30 at the Magic Kingdom. It as the same fireworks that night as it does the 31st. Then I’d go to the Animal Kingdom–the only park without fireworks on New Years Eve–the 31st. See this for more: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/05/16/new-years-eve-20132014-at-walt-disney-world/

Epcot is one of the four Disney World theme parks…and one of two (Hollywood Studios) that has both fireworks and alcohol on New Years Eve. Magic Kingdom has fireworks but no alcohol…

114 Desiree { 12.27.13 at 4:16 pm }

My husband and I are spending NYE 2013 in Disney. We are planning to arrive at MK before the park opens to make our chances of getting in a little more solid…as I am really going for the park, not so much the nighttime activities. If we WERE to stay for the NYE celebration how would we do that? Is there a special ticket or is the regular day pass good for the evening as well, the website isn’t very clear? I do understand that we should not leave the park once we get there if we do plan on staying for the MK after hours celebration. Thanks for the help!

115 Dave { 12.28.13 at 10:36 am }

Hi Desiree, one regular day ticket works all day long–there’s no special or additional ticket

116 Jessica { 12.30.13 at 12:44 pm }

Is getting into Epcot around 6pm on NYE possible? Or do you think the park would have reached capacity at that point?

117 Dave { 12.31.13 at 6:45 am }

Jessica, I don’t know! If you are staying at a WDW resort it should be possible. If you are off property I wouldn’t count on it…

118 beth { 08.06.14 at 9:41 pm }

Our son’s high school marching band is scheduled to perform at Magic Kingdom at 3pm on New Years Eve. Sounded great at first, but now I’m scared. I know its advisable to get there early in the am, but would it also be beneficial to purchase advance tix?

119 Dave { 08.07.14 at 7:02 am }

Beth, absolutely, as that’s the only way you can get FastPass+ booked ahead of time!!

120 Alisa { 09.11.14 at 4:46 pm }

My children’s father lives overseas and has planned to go with them and his extended family (10 people total) to MK over New Years @ Epcot; however, he’s staying in a house off site and didn’t know about the chance of park closures, our daughter mentioned it. Should they be concerned, and if so, what should their greatest concern be such that maybe he doesn’t fly all this way only to not be able to attend New Year’s Eve? Thank you.

121 Dave { 09.12.14 at 9:23 am }

Alisa, I would get him a room on property.

122 Amy { 10.01.14 at 7:27 am }

Hello:
Our family of 4 is visiting Orlando this April(2015) during Easter time. We are staying off site. What time should we arrive at either Magic Kingdome or Epcot to be assured of a good parking spot along with park admittance on Friday 4/3 and Easter weekend? Also, if we decide to leave a park around 2pm for a reprieve, would we be guaranteed reentry into parks later in day being we were already in? Thanks so much!

123 Dave { 10.01.14 at 7:47 am }

Amy, the trick is to arrive well before they open–not for parking, but becasue that’s when lines will be lowest. Unfortunately at MK every day during the holiday it opens an hour early to WDW hotel guests, so crowds will not be great when you arrive–still better than a late arrival, but not as good as on days when it does not open early.

Right now opens for the general public are listed at 9a, but I expect those to change to 8a.

And no, sadly there’s no “guaranteed re-entry.”

124 Jane { 10.02.14 at 10:39 am }

Do parks get closed during Thanksgiving week? I am especially interested in Wed (day before Thanksgiving) and Black Friday. Actual Tgiving day is our down day, partly to avoid the crowds. 🙂

125 Dave { 10.03.14 at 6:56 am }

I can’t recall that it is common, Jane, but they might, especially on Weds and Thurs.

126 Jane { 10.03.14 at 1:26 pm }

Thanks so much! Do you have any opinion as to whether HS might get closed on the day before Tgiving this year (Wed Nov 26)? Or MK that night, or Black Friday night?

127 Jane { 10.03.14 at 1:31 pm }

Also, if you have a dining reservation but can’t get in, do they let you cancel it without penalty if you call to tell them?

128 Dave { 10.05.14 at 12:50 pm }

Jane, I doubt it for either.

129 Dave { 10.05.14 at 12:51 pm }

Jane, not automatically, but if you explain to guest services they will almost certainly remove the penalty charge…

130 Sarah D. { 10.20.14 at 9:24 am }

Hello! We will be traveling to Disney World between Christmas and New Years Day this year. We plan to spend NYE at Hollywood Studios but I was hoping to visit Magic Kingdom in the morning. We are staying on site and 6 of the 8 people in our group are Annual Pass Holders. What is the latest we should plan to be at Hollywood Studios to prevent being turned away due to park closure? If we stay at Magic Kingdom until around noon or 1pm, will we still be able to get into Hollywood Studios that late? Thank you for your help!

131 Dave { 10.20.14 at 4:12 pm }

Sarah, I’m sorry but that requires a level of precision in forecasting that I don’t have.

132 Carrie { 11.27.14 at 6:58 am }

Hi Dave-
We will be there on NYE and were planning on Epcot. DO you think we’d be safe to arrive there around 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon? Because we’ll be there so late we are thinking of taking it easy in the morning and just hanging at the hotel. Thoughts?

133 Dave { 11.28.14 at 8:40 am }

Carrie, honestly I can’t guarantee anything. Your odds will be better if you are staying at a WDW resort, and you take the buses rather than driving…

134 Loriann Tilley-Stroud { 11.29.14 at 1:35 pm }

hey our family is arriving at the airport 8:10 and will be staying on site of disney world…..will be able to get in that night to our hotel and stay for the attractions…should we buy park tickets before we arrive to be able to use attractions if we like…thanks…so excited….eek

135 Dave { 11.30.14 at 2:21 pm }

Loriann–when??

136 Karen { 01.25.15 at 9:06 am }

Hey Dave!
We are going to WDW in mid July, staying off site. I realize we have to get there early to be sure to get in the parks, but wondering if it will be unwise to leave in the mid afternoon for a break. Do parks tend to drop below max capacity in the late afternoon/early evening? Worried we won’t be able to get back in …..

137 Dave { 01.26.15 at 11:49 am }

Karen, July closures are almost unheard of except the 4th of July, so you should be fine!!

138 Lori { 06.03.15 at 5:36 pm }

Hello, My husband and I are planning our First trip to WDW and we are not staying at a WDW hotel..We are staying close though, that said we only have a short time to go and that would be December the 23-Jan 1. we have a four night five day vacation planned what would be the best days to go to WDW in this time frame that won’t cause us closures at WDW. Please help! Thanks

139 Dave { 06.05.15 at 8:04 am }

Lori, there’s no way to avoid closures for sure that time of year. The parks will be mobbed every day, but slightly better–not that it’s much noticeable–the 23-25th.

140 rose { 06.24.15 at 12:04 am }

Hi dave we will be in orlando from dec 26 to jan 2nd. We are staying in cocoa beach but planning on going to either Epcot or MK on dec 30 and dec 31. I would love to check in at a disney resort for 2 days on Dec 30 and dec 31 but the price with 2 day tickets for 5 people is too expensive. My other dilemma is my dad is on wheelchair so I am not sure if he can last for even half a day in any of the amusement parks to see the fireworks. What do you recommend? Would doing a firework cruise be a good alternative if we’re not staying at a disney resort? Thanks!

141 Dave { 06.24.15 at 7:26 am }

Rose, honestly I would not bother. The crowds and waits will be astonishing. While Disney rents wheelchairs and scooters at the parks, they likely will sell out quickly. If you can afford it, an Epcot fireworks cruise is your next best option.

142 daniell { 10.15.15 at 11:05 pm }

hi Dave, me and my family are spending NYE in Walt Disney World. We will be staying at the Contemporary Hotel. Our plan is to chill out at the hotel all day and just go to MK or HS around 9pm do you think it will be possible for us to get in that late?

My ideal night will be to have dinner me and my family and the go inside a park for the celebration and fireworks. do you have suggestions? thank you in advance for your time and help

143 Dave { 10.16.15 at 8:25 am }

Danielle, no guarantees, but you should be able to walk over to MK from the Contemporary.

144 Jennifer { 10.26.15 at 1:15 pm }

We are a family of 7, with the oldest (grandpa) probably wanting a scooter, and the youngest (age 3) in a stroller. We are staying from the 26th through the 3rd and wanted to gauge which park might be best for NYE. Any recommendations on which park for which day (best choices for MK). Thanks!

145 Dave { 10.27.15 at 9:37 am }

Jennifer, re NYE if the question is what will be the least crowded park, it’s AK hands down, because there are no fireworks there. If the question is “which park to celebrate NYE” my honest answer is none–too crowded. HS will be the best among a poor set of options, then Epcot, then MK.

The best MK dates your period will be Jan 1 and Jan 3.

I except DIsney to update its calendar for December in November, but right now here’s my advice on parks to avoid:

12/26 avoid HS
12/27 avoid AK
12/28 avoid MK
12/29 avoid Epcot
12/30 avoid MK, AK
12/31 avoid MK, Epcot, HS
1/1 avoid Epcot
1/2 avoid MK
1/3 avoid HS

146 Kinjal { 11.15.15 at 5:01 pm }

Hi Dave, we(My husband, our 7 year twin girls and I) are arriving on Dec 31st at about 8pm what are our best option to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Also would like to see the fire works. We do have 5days hopper tickets. Please advise.

147 Dave { 11.17.15 at 11:23 am }

Kinjal, that is the busiest day of the year, by far, and there may not even be a park open. I don’t particualry recommend going anywhere that evening but the easiest park to get into that also shows fireworks will likely be Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

148 Leean { 12.03.15 at 11:16 pm }

Hi!

My husband and I are arriving to Orlando on 12/31 at 9:00pm. What are our chances of getting into any of the parks? I’ve read that Epcot is the least likely to reach capacity. We just want to see a celebration, we don’t care much for the rides. We are driving straight from the airport to the park.

149 Dave { 12.05.15 at 4:56 pm }

Leann, sorry but I can’t quote you a chance. It can’t hurt to try. Your odds will be better if you already have tickets, and even better if you have a WDW hotel reservation.

150 james { 12.23.16 at 9:16 pm }

OK call me crazy but we are going to MK on 12/31/16. I think I have planned well but would like your option. We are AP holder and staying at Old Key west. We have an ADR at The Wave at 9am and then plan on walking to MK after. We also have an ADR for the New Tiana icecream party at 3pm and FP for 5pm, 6pm ,7pm. I think I have covered all my bases but want to make sure we wont get shut out of MK after breakfest and arrive at MK around 10-10:30. Thoughts?

151 Dave { 12.27.16 at 7:47 am }

James, you should be fine–walking from the Contemporary solves many problems!

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