By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Picking Disney World Park Days



By Dave Shute

PICKING WHICH DAY TO SEE WHICH DISNEY WORLD PARK

The Disney World theme parks can be roughly predicted to have higher or lower crowds on certain days of the week compared to other days that week.

These predictions come from the combination of the overall patterns of visitation and the presence in the operating calendar of various “attractors” and “repellers”—of which the most significant are variations in operating hours and evening entertainment, and the presence or absence of Extra Magic Hours.

Note that by lower crowds, I don’t mean “no crowds” or “inconsequential crowds.” Low crowd periods, as used in this site and its crowd calendars, are low when compared to other times of the year with higher–often spectacularly higher–crowds.

That does not necessarily mean that the parks will feel uncrowded compared to your expectations, as that depends on your expectations, because low does not equal empty. Not even close…

So “Low Crowds” does not necessarily mean lower than you think they will be, or a low as you wish they were; it means lower than the other choices you have.

And even on the quietest of days, if you arrive at 11a, have a poor plan, don’t make good FastPass+ choices, and target the more popular rides, you will experience long waits. A good plan with well-chosen FastPass+, arrival at the parks well before they open, and a judicious approach to which rides you will visit first, will defeat the crowds almost every week of the year. You can find such plans in my itineraries and in my book.

But even so, there is usually some value to also making good choices on which park to visit which day, and this is particularly important during the “party season” which runs from later August through the first two-thirds of December.

GOOD AND BAD DISNEY WORLD PARK DAYS MOST OF THE YEAR

Because both shorter and longer trips typically include weekends, weekends (and Mondays) are typically the times that see the most people in the Disney World parks. Operating hours are often extended over weekends, but not necessarily in proportion to demand, so crowds can be high even during low times of the year.

Days when a park has morning Extra Magic Hours will be typically more crowded later that day than they would be without these special hours. This is because these hours disproportionately attract the ~75,000 people who are eligible for them, many of whom don’t have hoppers and thus have that as their park all day. It is particularly critical for folks not eligible for EMH—or those who are eligible but can’t get to the park well before EMH begins—to avoid such parks on days they have morning EMH.

As a result, most of the year (but not during the party season, see below):

  • Animal Kingdom is typically least busy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. It’s busiest on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, particularly on days with morning Extra Magic Hours.
  • Epcot is generally least busy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Saturdays are typically busiest with most Tuesdays and Thursdays seeing longer waits than other weekdays.
  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are usually best for Hollywood Studios. Sundays and Fridays typically see higher attendance.
  • Magic Kingdom is typically least busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and busiest on Saturdays and Mondays

These patterns come from typical travel schedules, the typical ways people wish to order their visits to the parks, and the pull of the typical Extra Magic Hours schedule.

Traditionally, the most common pattern has visitors seeing Magic Kingdom first, and the Studios and Animal Kingdom last. The powerful impact of Flight of Passage, though, has been shifting Animal Kingdom visits to earlier in the week.

GOOD DISNEY WORLD PARK DAYS DURING THE PARTY SEASON

During weeks with highly varied show schedules and/or operating hours, the parks can show real variation in crowding across the week.

This is particularly an issue many weeks in later August through much of December, when because of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the Magic Kingdom often closes to the general public using regular tickets at 6p, with no fireworks available to the general public, multiple times a week.

As a result, people are both “repelled” by the 6p closings and lack of evening shows, reducing crowds those days, and “attracted” to the days when the park is both open late and showing fireworks…and those days can be mobbed. During the Halloween part of this period, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival will attract many locals to World Showcase on weekends and especially Friday and Saturday evenings, leading to (tipsy) crowds in World Showcase those nights.

The best way to handle these party season periods is to see the Magic Kingdom on days when it closes at 6p, and see its evening events on a different day, without having spent the earlier part of that day at MK except with a few select FastPass+.

Moreover, be particularly careful to avoid other parks with Extra Magic Hours on days Magic Kingdom closes at 6p, as those parks can be particularly mobbed on such days, with people repelled from MK by the 6p close and then being attracted to the park with the Extra Magic Hours.

THE JUDO OF DISNEY WORLD CROWDS

This last point is an example of how to think about crowds at Disney World.

Think about why you are drawn to Walt Disney World in general during a particular week, or to a specific park on a particular day, and whether your reasons are the same as those of the typical family with children.

If the reasons you have are also those of the typical family with children, then you will likely run into disproportionate crowds.

So as much as you can, do the opposite of the typical family–that’s the judo.
 

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115 comments

1 Jackie { 09.09.18 at 7:44 pm }

Hi Dave,
We would love to get your input on which parks to avoid for 2/2/19-2/8/19. Thanks so much for your help! Your book has been an invaluable resource and the free updates you and Josh send out are such an awesome perk, thank you for doing that!

2 Dave { 09.10.18 at 8:11 am }

Hi Jackie, and thanks so much!!

On 2/2 avoid MK and AK
2/3 avoid HS
2/4 avoid AK
2/5 avoid Epcot
2/6 avoid MK
2/7 avoid Epcot
2/8 avoid MK
2/9 avoid MK and AK

3 18 Best-Ever Disney World Hacks You Must Try! - Ellis Exclusive Villas { 09.14.18 at 5:10 am }

[…] We really love Dave Shute’s guidance on this and if you’re serious about picking a day with lower footfall highly recommend you visit his site. […]

4 Jo { 09.16.18 at 11:52 am }

HI Dave

I’m back again, now that Disney has released the schedule for the first week in March 3 to 7); staying at the boardwalk. I was hoping to get your thoughts on my plan. I know you will point out my evenings of the 5th and 6th might be crowded but We are bringing our only daughter will be coming up on 16 and she really enjoyed late hours last year:)
March 3rd: travel / Epcot
March 4th: MK / HS
March 5th: MK / Epcot
March 6th: AK / MK
March7th: HS / travel
thanks for your help as always!!!!

5 Dave { 09.16.18 at 12:24 pm }

Hi Jo–given your interest in evening EMH, park hopping is the way to go, and you’ve done a great job!

6 Jo { 09.17.18 at 4:35 pm }

Yay! All due to you!!
Thanks for all of your guidance!

7 Dave { 09.18.18 at 10:32 am }

🙂 Jo

8 Emily { 09.17.18 at 9:25 pm }

I would appreciate your recommendation on which parks to avoid for 1/5/19-1/8/19. We will only spend 3 out of these 4 days in the parks, if that makes a difference. Thank you for everything!

9 Dave { 09.18.18 at 10:36 am }
10 Bria { 09.25.18 at 9:21 am }

Hi Dave.. it’s me again!!

My WDW trip is planned for 12/2-12/7 so I’m thinking
12/3-E
12/4-AK
12/5-HS
12/6- MK

I plan to do a park a day, no hopping. Ideally, to start at rope drop, enjoy the park until about 1or 2 pm, return to the hotel (AK Lodge) to rest and then return to the same park at night. I read that as long as the park is not at capacity, you can reenter the same park later in the day, is that correct?

Any input on parks to visit/avoid on which day?

11 Dave { 09.25.18 at 10:21 am }

Hi Bria, these are great choices! However, your dates the parks–other than Epcot–either may or will close early. For example MK will close at 6p on 12/6, and AK and HS may close as early as 8p your days. So the strategy of returning to the hotel then heading back to the park may not work quite as well as you might be thinking. And yes, with a non-hopper ticket, you can return to the same park in the same day as often as you’d like.

12 Bria { 09.25.18 at 4:07 pm }

Thank you Dave I didn’t even think about the fact certain parks may be closing early. So what would you suggest for 12/3-12/6?

13 Dave { 09.26.18 at 1:26 pm }

Bria, the only point worth thinking about is the early close at Magic Kingdom. This will keep you in particular from seeing the evening fireworks (more on them is here).

On the other hand, for just that reason, days MK is open late are just mobbed. So other than the fireworks, you won’t see any more of the park by being there on such a busy day until 2 and then returning for the fireworks than you would being there all day on a day the park closes at 6p.

Honestly, there is so much at MK–and the fireworks are so good–that if you were my sister or my cousin I would say to skip one of the other three parks, and spend two days at MK, one on an early close day and one on a late close with fireworks day.

If you are open to that possibility, take a look at this page (if you have not already) to see if there’s a park you would be willing to skip.

14 Bria { 09.26.18 at 3:51 pm }

Thank you so much for your help with my planning process!

15 Cathleen Caves { 10.09.18 at 11:35 am }

Going to Disney World from 1/3-1/6, can’t visits parks until the 4th because of our passes. We haven’t visited in 2.5 years so top things to see/experience include toy story land and Avatar. We don’t mind park hopping and we plan to spend all day. We also got the dining plan and would like to fit in some character dining. Any suggestions in regard to which parks to visit on which days. We could leave off epcot if we have to but would definitely like to visit the other 3. Thanks so much in advance!

16 Dave { 10.10.18 at 6:52 am }

Cathleen, the parks will be wildly busy those days (see this). Are you eligible for Extra Magic Hours? That would affect my advice…

17 Cathleen { 10.11.18 at 8:29 am }

We will be staying at yacht club so I believe the answer is yes! we will get extra magic hours. I’m expecting super busy. We are purchasing annual passes and will come back throughout the year, we live about 4 hours south. SO we need to leave around 2pm on the 6th to head home. Something else to make note of is that my daughter gets the disability access pass and typically a few additional fast passes as her disability inhibits her ability to wait in lines. thanks again for your help

18 Dave { 10.11.18 at 11:37 am }

OK, that’s a pretty tight calendar–about a third to a fourth as long as I’d recommend. I would focus on two parks–MK and one other, otherwise you will waste time, especially given all the dining time you’ll need to get value out of the dining plan. Use this to help you pick your parks.

If you pick AK as your second park, do morning EMH at MK the 4th and at AK the 5th. On such a short trip it make more sense to stay in the park than to hop away, as you will waste to much time traveling between parks. Then return to MK the morning of the 6th.

If you pick HS as your second park, then as above go to MK for EMH on the 4th, but hop to HS in the afternoon. Go to MK on the 5th, then return to HS for morning EMH on the 6th.

19 Tom { 10.24.18 at 12:44 pm }

We just booked for, what I just read on your April 2019 entry, one of the busiest weeks of the year (4/13-4/20). We are Disneyland folks and have never been to WDW. Any tips for newbies in dealing with the extreme crowds? One person told us to keep the kids on CA time – thus arrive at the parks later but stay later. Would that help?

20 Dave { 10.27.18 at 11:52 am }

Hi Tom, first see this for how the FastPass+ system works. Second, the parks are least crowded at the very beginning and very end of the day, so staying on California time will simply put you in them when they start seeing peak crowds. An early morning start–as painful as it is–is the best plan!

Are you eligible for EMH, and do you have hopper tickets? If so, another approach is to start at the park with morning EMH, and then hop late morning to your FastPass+ at another park.

See this for an example itinerary. Note That your week will likely have more 8a opens, and perhaps more morning EMH, than it assumes.

21 PS { 10.26.18 at 10:35 am }

Hi! We\’ll be there 11/1/18 to 11/4/18. Which 4 parks to visit first? We were thinking
11/1- AK
11/2- E
11/3- MK
11/4- HS

22 Dave { 10.27.18 at 11:57 am }

PS, if you are asking this so late you probably don’t understand the FastPass+ system. You need to read this right now.

For your dates:
11/1: avoid MK and Epcot
11/2: avoid Epcot and HS
11/3: avoid all but HS
11/4 avoid HS.

So I’d suggest

11/1 AK
11/2 MK
11/3 HS
11/4 Epcot

23 bill { 11.04.18 at 6:03 pm }

hi am going on november 25, 26,27 with my 5 year old grandson for first time
what would you suggest to max visit

24 Dave { 11.05.18 at 9:15 am }

Hi Bill, first you need to decide what parks to see. For a kid that age, a few half-days at Magic Kingdom could be just fine, or you might want to go for two MK partial days, and one at either Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.

See this to help you decide, and also for info on Disney’s FastPass+ program, which you also need to know about now, if you don’t already.

Then let me know what you are thinking!

25 bill { 11.05.18 at 11:47 am }

i have a 3 day park hopper and hope to visit all four parks. I’m sure we will have to take a nap each day.
so im squeezing as much in as possible – staying at carribean and arriving noon on sunday, with all day monday and turesday. My grandson is about 44in tall

26 Dave { 11.06.18 at 8:37 am }

I would never advise such an approach, Bill–you will waste time traveling among parks and leave much unseen.

November 25th MK is the best choice, and HS the worst
November 26th MK and AK are bad choices, and the other two parks are fine
November 27 avoid Epcot

27 bill { 11.07.18 at 9:47 am }

thanks
i understand my strategy is crazy, we wont see everything on our first trip, but it will give a great taste of the disney experience and your guidance is very much appreciated and will definitley improve our experience thanks again

28 Dave { 11.08.18 at 7:17 am }

Bill, got it–and now everything makes sense! Have a great visit!

29 Jessica { 11.07.18 at 10:13 am }

I would like your expert advice on going to WDW on Dec 2-9 with my 4 year old. We want to go 5 day tickets (1 Park per day) and skip AK. We would also like to do MK for 2 days and I’m also toying with the idea of Disney’s Very Merry Christmas party as well. Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

30 Dave { 11.08.18 at 7:21 am }

Jessica, with a 4 year old, I would skip EPcot, not AK. I’d figure three partial days at MK, and a partial day at each of HS and AK.

I would not do the party, as kids that age commonly can’t stay late enough to get value from the tickets. I’ll have a review of this year’s party up sometime next week (I’m heading down to Orlando this weekend to see it).

Take a look at this page on approaches to the parks (and also on FastPass+, which you need to know about now, if you don’t already know about it).

Then get back to me with what you think…

31 S Peeps { 11.10.18 at 12:10 am }

We decided very last minute to do Disney 11/20 – 11/23, 1 park per day. We went last year and had everything planned with meal plans and stayed at Wilderness Lodge but this is so last minute we are staying off Disney property and utilizing shuttle services. I need advice quick. lol We are taking grandparents this time who have never been and would like for them to experience the fireworks at MK as that was one of our favorites.

32 Dave { 11.11.18 at 9:36 am }

So S Peeps, Thanksgiving week is a pretty rough week. Keep your eye out for shifts to 8am opens. Avoid MK Weds and Thurs, and prefer Tues to Fri. Avoid Epcot all days but Friday. HS is OK most days, and AK too–and the best choice for Thanksgiving. Putting all this together, I get

Tues 11/20: MK
Weds 11/21: HS
Thurs 11/22: AK
Fri 11/23: Epcot

33 Cora { 11.14.18 at 11:15 pm }

Hi Dave,
We will be visiting the parks 5/26/19 – 6/3/19. We plan on 2 MK days, 2 E days, 2 HS days, 1 AK day, 1 BB day and 1 rest day. We do not have park hoppers, and won’t be able to utilize EMH. My date to make ADRs is coming up, and I’m having a hard time planning which park to visit on which day. Which parks would you suggest on which days? Thank you!

34 Dave { 11.16.18 at 6:54 am }

Cora, Disney’s calendar for then is not yet out, so I don’t have firm opinions (I will in a few weeks). However, I have found that this calendar is pretty reliable: https://www.thedibb.co.uk/forums/parkhours.php?hours=5+2019

35 Cora { 11.16.18 at 8:28 am }

I’ll check that out. Thanks for your help!!

36 Veronica { 11.16.18 at 6:52 am }

Dave,
I am trying to decide when to go between the week of 4/1 or 4/8. I´ve read that the Star Wars Marathon is the weekend of 4/6, would that mean that the parks will be full? Thanks!

37 Dave { 11.16.18 at 6:56 am }

Veronica, the races have little effect on crowds. That said, I see your later week as a much better choice–see this.

38 Bill { 11.19.18 at 11:01 am }

hi
one last question
what is your recommendation for which park on wednesday novemeber 28th?

thanks again for all your help

39 Dave { 11.20.18 at 8:46 am }

Bill, any park except MK should be fine. Epcot likely will be best.

40 Pcf { 11.21.18 at 3:59 pm }

Hi Veronica, and thank you for all your suggestions and tips! I am planning my very first trip to WdW and am now choosing which parks to visit from august 31st – arriving late afternoon until the 8th of September – leaving for Universal mid afternoon. Am doing a split stay Akl 2 nights, Boardwalk 4 nights and Poly 2 nights. Would love to hear your suggestions.

41 Dave { 11.22.18 at 10:51 am }

Not sure who Veronica is. I’m Dave. I can help you, but only after Disney posts its hours for then, which won’t be for three or four months.

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