Park Hoppers and Hopping at Walt Disney World
By Dave Shute
TO PARK HOP AT DISNEY WORLD OR NOT?
The park hopper option lets you go to more than one of the four main theme parks in a day.
There’s nothing wrong with park hoppers. Rather, it’s that on a long enough visit, most of the time you can make everything work without one, and avoid the extra cost of more than $200 for a typical family. While this site is not shy about spending your money, I do try to eliminate avoidable expenses.
But there are some perfectly good reasons why a park hopper may make sense for your family. Almost all of these reasons come down to simply adding flexibility to your choices.
But be warned: once you’ve been on a visit with a hopper, it’s hard to be at Walt Disney World without one!
PARK HOPPERS AND DINING
Some of the best-loved dining venues at Disney World are in the parks themselves.
Without a hopper, you can indulge in one of these only if that’s the only park you go to that day.
Adding a hopper lets you separate where you dine from where else you might go that day, and can be a big help if the restaurant you are targeting is sold out the day you plan to be in a park.
PARK HOPPERS AND EVENING EVENTS
Much of the year, the key evening events–the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot, and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–are on pretty much every night, and thus don’t influence hopping.
But certain times of the year because of either special evening parties or lower demand they aren’t on every night. This makes it harder to fit them into an itinerary–and also typically means that the parks are more crowded on days they are showing.
A hopper can make them easier to see, because you can see them any evening they are on without worrying about where else you are that day.
PARK HOPPERS AND EXTRA MAGIC HOURS
With some exceptions this site avoids Extra Magic Hours. Morning Extra Magic Hours (“EMH”) themselves are great, but by around lunch the park with morning EMH will be more crowded than it is on non-EMH days.
Evening EMH times often begin not much less crowded, and although crowds diminish the later they go, they can keep you up so late as to make you miserable the next day.
(I do like morning EMH at the Animal Kingdom on days it closes at 5p, and evening EMH at Epcot and Hollywood Studios the nights you are seeing Illuminations and Fantastic.
In the Animal Kingdom case, it can be hard to see the park between only 9 and 5, and for the Epcot and the Studios, it’s nice to not have to leave the park at the end of the show along with 10,000 other people.)
If you plan to take the afternoon off anyway, hoppers really help take advantage of EMH. You can visit a park during morning EMH, leave for a nap and a swim at the hotel when it gets too crowded, and head to a different, less crowded park later that day.
Similarly with a hopper you can see evening shows on nights a park has evening EMH without committing to that park the rest of your day.
HOPPERS AND HALF DAY VISITS
If your visit is short or your kids are young, some parks may be worth only half a day, but you may be unwilling to take the rest of the day off. Hoppers make this possible.
Young kids, for example, don’t get much out of Epcot, but are the perfect age for Turtle Talk with Crush, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and, if they are tall enough, Soarin. Illuminations is also a hit with the part of the younger set that’s not overly fearful of fireworks.
A hopper lets you begin your day at Epcot and see everything little kids love there in a couple of hours, return that night (or another night!) for Illuminations, but spend the middle of the day at another park.
HOPPERS AND DARK, CONFLICTED, FILMS
A park hopper won’t help much with building a film like Blue Velvet, but a dennis hopper will.