By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—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.)


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.


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.


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.



1 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?

2 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…

3 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

4 Dave { 11.30.14 at 2:21 pm }


5 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 …..

6 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!!

7 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

8 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.

9 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!

10 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.

11 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

12 Dave { 10.16.15 at 8:25 am }

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

13 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!

14 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

15 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.

16 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.

17 Leean { 12.03.15 at 11:16 pm }


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.

18 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.

19 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?

20 Dave { 12.27.16 at 7:47 am }

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

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