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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193 comments

1 Ethan { 08.27.19 at 11:34 pm }

Hey Dave!
First off, I wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the work you and Josh put into your book. It’s been my main reference as I continue to plan for my 10 yr old granddaughter and my first visit the last week of September this year.
So far my plans are:
Sun 9/22 – arrive at Pop Century 9am (Pool, explore resort, would love suggestions)
Mon 9/23 – HS
Tues 9/24 – AK
Wed 9/25 – MK
Thu 9/26 – EP
Fri 9/27 – MK
Sat 9/28 – checkout at 11am (flight departs around 2:15)

Granddaughter and I plan to take full advantage of EMH and slow down/take breaks in the parks when lines are long.
I haven’t scheduled any fastpasses or dining yet as I wanted to get advice on the days we chose for the parks first.

Appreciate any and all advice!

2 Dave { 08.28.19 at 1:20 pm }

Hi Ethan, and thanks!!

I would do things a little differently. 9/25 will be mobbed at MK, as will 9/26 at Epcot. If you picked 9/25 at MK to see the fireworks, then I would do 9/23 instead, as 9/25 will be better at HS than 9/23 will be, and 9/23 better at MK than 9/25. 9/24 will be better at Epcot than 9/26, so flipping your AK and Epcot days would take care of that.

3 Ethan { 08.28.19 at 10:25 pm }

Awesome, thanks Dave!

I think the reason we chose Monday for HS is the book suggests holding off on MK until a little later in the week. Also since the Sunday would be a non park day we could get to bed early and be at HS for 6 to try to experience Galaxy’s Edge.
Even if GE is crazy, if it draws the crowds from the other attractions I’ll be happy with that.

4 Todd { 08.28.19 at 10:47 pm }

Going November 1st-19th-right after the extra extra magic hours end- planning all the theme parks in the area- concerned the hours at Magic Kingom are so short–closing 9 pm, even on a holiday weekend with Jersey week, and only one extra magic hours evening–which is Wednesdays. 6 pm closings lots of days because of Christmas parties. We wanted to see the park at night. Do you think they will lengthen the hours at Magic Kingdom?

5 Dave { 08.30.19 at 9:06 am }

Todd, the early close days–which are routine this time of year–will not vary. One evening EMH is also routine. Late close nights may be extended to 10p. See this for the final hours in one of your periods last year. Since Disney introduced FastPass+ in 2014, MK hours have progressively narrowed, as FP+ enables people to see more in less time.

6 Anonymous { 08.29.19 at 12:04 am }

Hey Dave,

I just came across your website and it has honestly helped me a lot with planning my first Disney world trip. I had to change my trip from September to November. If you could help me kind of plan out what days I should visit each park I would really appreciate it! I will be there from November 17th to the 23rd. I am planning to get tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party and in that week there are 4, which we wouldn’t go to the one on the 17th because we plan to arrive that day. We would either go to the one on the 19th, 21st, or 22nd. I would appreciate any advice and tips please 🙂

Thank you,

Maria Hernandez

7 Dave { 08.30.19 at 9:07 am }

HI maria–any kids? What ages?

8 Lisa { 09.10.19 at 5:03 am }

Hello ,
I have a trip to Walt Disney coming up from 9/18-9/22 we are actually going to Disney world the day of the 19th and plan on purchasing the hopper. Since our budget only allows us for 1 day at Disney and it’s our first time , do you have any tips on how we can do a little bit of everything in one day ?

9 Dave { 09.10.19 at 1:36 pm }

So, umm, Lisa, I could not advise doing that. Seeing all the best at Disney World takes about six days, and because of how FastPass+ work, and the way lines develop, compressing that into one day doesn’t really work that well.

First, a one day ticket with a hopper is wildly expensive–adding about $65 per ticket to your costs to the ~$115 a base ticket will already cost you. Second, it takes a lot of time to get between the parks–figure about three hours of your day for that for planning purposes. Third, even with trying to book fourth and further FastPass+ you will be facing long lines at most parks after your first park. Finally, you are setting yourself up for a really long day…

If you are staying at a hotel with Extra Magic Hours privileges (all those on this page do, and only those), then doing what you are thinking becomes a little easier, as you can start your day early–but that of course makes the day even longer…

Let me know where you are staying, and what your goals for visiting all four parks would be (that is, why this thought is attractive to you)…

10 Ana { 09.15.19 at 9:01 am }

We are traveling to Orlando on December 28 to January 4, we want to visit magic kingdom,
Epcot and Hollywood studios. Which days would you recommend we go to each park?
Thanks,

11 Dave { 09.15.19 at 4:53 pm }

Hi Ana. Those dates–especially the first four– will be among the very busiest days of the year at Disney World, so there will be no great choices. Let me know what hotel you are staying at, as some hotels have some privileges that make certain days better.

12 Beth { 09.16.19 at 11:50 am }

Hi Dave! We have a stay 12/8-12/15 in a ASMu suite , 7 full days with park hopper. 3 adults and a 15 and 9 year old. I need to figure out park days. Thinking about:
12/8 MK
12/9 HS
12/10 EP
12/11 AK
12/12 MK
12/13 HS
12/ 14 MK
These are starting parks for Fastpass selections. What would you do differently? Thank you!

13 Dave { 09.19.19 at 10:59 am }

Hi Beth, first, I expect no good days at Hollywood Studios your dates, since Rise of the Resistance will have opened in the new Star Wars land the week before. The least bad HS days will be weekdays when Magic Kingdom is open late—your dates that would be Monday and Wednesday.
Second. Magic Kingdom closes at 6p many of your dates. These are the least crowded days there. The days it closes late are very crowded and thus listed as days to avoid, but you probably want to hop over there one of those days to see the evening shows. Monday would be the best day for that, then Wednesday.

12/8 avoid HS
12/9 avoid HS and MK
12/10 avoid Epcot and HS
12/11 avoid MK and HS
12/12 avoid Epcot and HS
12/13 avoid MK (unless you are eligible for EMH and willing to arrive half an hour before they start) and HS
12/14 avoid all but Epcot

So as you can see I would do something different than you have planned…

14 Mary { 09.19.19 at 11:14 pm }

Hi Dave!
We are going to Disney World for the first time October 27th thru November 1st. We have five day military park hopper passes, and I was wondering what days we should go to which parks. We would like to take a rest day sometime that week. What are your recommendations?
Thanks,
Mary

15 Dave { 09.20.19 at 12:10 pm }

Hi Mary, because of this, I can help you better if I know what hotel you are staying in.

16 Dave { 09.20.19 at 12:16 pm }

Hi Mary! Any kids? Any park preferences? (See this for an overview of the parks, and also guidance on FastPass+, a key tool.)

11/2 no park is particularly a good choice, Epcot likely is best
11/3 avoid HS
11/4 avoid AK
11/5 avoid Epcot
11/6 avoid MK
11/7 avid Epcot
11/8 avoid MK

Generally mid-week days are least crowded in the parks, so there’s no obvious best off day. You might want to aim in for halfway in…

17 Anonymous { 09.20.19 at 12:44 pm }

We are not staying on site and we are going Oct. 27th – Nov. 1st. We will have our 14 month old daughter but will also have some time to leave her with Grandma while we enjoy the rides she’s too small for.

18 Dave { 09.21.19 at 10:05 am }

Ok, Mary, that’s tricky. A 14 year old will be mostly intrigued/scared/fascinated by the colors and movement, so there’s not much point to actually plan around a child that age, other than avoid rides she can’t join you on. Your dates, all the parks except Epcot will open every day before–in some case well before–you will be allowed to enter, so some crowds will be present even if you show up at park open.

Take a look at this to get the overall lay of the land and also to understand FastPass+, a critical planning tool, and then this to get a sense of what you can’t do when you have the 14 month old with you. Plan on largely half days, then if you can return for evening shows while the child is with her Grandma.

In terms of what parks to target by days–fit what you learn above into this:

10/27: best choice is MK
10/28: avoid MK. A better day than most at HS
10/29: avoid Epcot, MK is best
10/30 avoid MK, a better day than most at HS
10/31 avoid Epcot and MK
11/1 MK is best
11/2 avoid all, altho Epcot will be best among them

19 Linda H { 09.21.19 at 11:16 pm }

My husband and I are staying at one of the value resorts . We’ll be doing a park a day. November 18-21,2019. What park do you suggested we do each day?

20 Dave { 09.23.19 at 9:55 am }

Hi Linda! Take a look at this to decide what parks to focus on.

11/18 avoid MK and AK
11/19 avoid Epcot and HS
11/20 avoid MK
11/21 avoid Epcot and HS

21 Beth { 09.26.19 at 3:28 pm }

Thanks so much for your advice! I’m revising to
12-8 MK
12-9 HS/ MK for HEA
12-10 AK
12-11 EP / EP forever?
12-12 MK
12-13 HS
12-14 EP
Not sure when to do Epcot Forever and Fantasmic- any ideas?

22 Dave { 09.26.19 at 5:31 pm }

Beth, 12/11 is a fine choice for Epcot Forever. MK closes at 6p on 12/12 (which is why that’s a low crowd day there) so that’s a good night to head to HS for Fantasmic.

23 Beth { 09.27.19 at 12:00 pm }

Hi Dave! While debating which night to see HEA
12/9 with Disney after hours
12/11 with evening EMH
12/14
Which would you do?

24 Dave { 09.28.19 at 10:03 am }

Hey Beth, if you are hopping, principally for the purpose of seeing the show, either the 9th or 11th would be the better choices.

25 Sarah { 10.08.19 at 7:07 pm }

My husband and I (no kids) are visiting Disney World for the first time and staying at Coronado springs Dec 11-18, 2019. We start our park days December 12 and check out 18th. So far we are thinking to get 5 or 6 day tickets, not sure what you would recommend. Debating on whether to buy base tickets or Park Hopper. Which park should we visit each day and which is the ideal fast passes to grab? Thank you!

26 Dave { 10.09.19 at 11:30 am }

Sarah–start with looking through this, and based on it give me a rough sense of how much time you’d want to spend in each park.

27 Sarah { 10.11.19 at 2:25 am }

I appreciate your help, Dave! Based on research here is what I have come up with so far:

Magic Kingdom: 1-2 days
Epcot: 1 day
Hollywood Studios: 1 day
Animal Kingdom: 1 day

We decided to get Park Hopper tickets just in case. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge rides (Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance) are the main reason we are visiting since my husband is a huge Star Wars fan, so he may do a second day in Hollywood Studios, but if we are able to see and ride the major rides esp. the 2 Star Wars rides, I’m sure 1 day at HS will suffice. The 6th park day is open or for rides/attractions we might have missed (Epcot since it’s huge or HS). We don’t mind waking up early for Extra Magic Hours and don’t mind skipping the fireworks. I’m confused whether to go on EMH parks or to avoid it. Also, I don’t know if taking a break mid trip (Saturday or Sunday?) is recommended since I have feet and leg problems. If we do a break mid trip, we will probably visit Disney Springs but if not, we can check it out our last day, Wednesday 12/18 after resort checkout or even do a park day, since we have a flight around 6pm.

I truly do appreciate your feedback since I’ll be booking FastPasses soon 🙂

28 Dave { 10.11.19 at 10:17 am }

Sarah, there’s much uncertainty about Galaxy’s Edge. Because of that I would plan two HS days.

I get your logic on the hopper. But what I’d do is add a couple of ticket days instead. This gives you that 3x the number of days worth of FastPass+, and is also cheaper. Similarly, rather than an off day, I’d advise spreading your down-time over several days–for example, arrive early (or for AM EMH) at a park, use your 3 FastPass+, and take the afternoon and evening off. Or take the morning and afternoon off and go to a park for dinner, 3 FP+ and the evening show.

The dining at Disney Springs is great, but if you are not foodies, it is otherwise not worth much time.

Let me know your reactions, and any revisions you might have based on them, and then we can get to your days!

29 Sarah { 10.11.19 at 6:19 pm }

If only we really could stay longer! lol. We only really have 6 days that we can dedicate for the parks and obtained the 6 day Park Hopper tickets already. I figure we just pace ourselves while in the park and find a place to sit and rest and eat/snack then do more rides. We will probably head back to the resort in the evening when we felt we’ve done the main rides (looking forward to the hot tub in Coronado Springs). We can probably go to Disney Springs when we checkout.
Let me know your thoughts!

12/12 Actual arrival is 12:15am, taking Magical Express.

Thursday 12/12 MK
Friday 12/13 HS
Saturday 12/14 Epcot
Sunday 12/15 HS EMH or MK
Monday 12/16 AK EMH
Tuesday 12/17 MK

Wednesday 12/18 Check out resort and Disney Springs. Flight 6pm.

30 Dave { 10.13.19 at 10:48 am }

Sarah, I am worried about HS. It likely will be best 1. on weekdays that 2. MK is open late. Your dates, the options that fit that are Monday and Weds. Maybe you should hold weds as a possible HS day, and make Monday an HS day.

31 Deanna { 10.11.19 at 7:55 pm }

Hi Dave,
Do you know when you will have park recommendations for summer (Just a bit excited, here!)? My travel dates are May 30, 2020 to June 9, 2020. My 15 year old and I each have a 7 day hopper pass. I am looking forward to booking some park dining options, but do not know which park to visit on a given day.
As an aside, your recommendation to use Kelly B. for my travel plans has been wonderful. She is so efficient, thorough, and knowledgeable.
Thank you

32 Dave { 10.13.19 at 10:49 am }

Hi Deanna, I usually have them 180 to 210 days ahead–so sometime in November. And so glad Kelly is working out! I agree, she is wonderful!

33 Kathleen Matus { 10.15.19 at 10:09 pm }

Dave, we are planning a first trip in June 2020 for the grands (2, 4, 7 & 9) as well as three adults who have been before. We are planning a 6 day stay with Sea World in the mix as well. Our question is which park to visit on our last day in Orlando? We’re trying to use Mimi’s airlines miles which would require a 7 pm flight out on Saturday night. Any suggestions?

34 Dave { 10.16.19 at 11:02 am }

Hi Kathleen! A lot depends on which parks you wish to target, and a bit on where you want to stay.

Saturdays aren’t great in any of the parks, but can make for a fine second day at a park you plan to spend two days at. Given the ages of the kids, that might mean MK.

It could also be an OK day for a park you don’t plan to spend much time at anyway–again based on ages, that might be Epcot.

Finally, if you are staying in an EMH eligible resort, AK might be a good choice if you can get the kids up and at the park in time to arrive by e.g. 30 minutes before EMH starts–this would mean missing Rivers of Light, but that’s the weakest on the night time shows. (That’s assuming that the June EMH pattern is the same as it is for earlier dates–Disney’s cleandr is out for only into mid-April)

35 Melissa { 10.16.19 at 2:13 pm }

Hi! We are planning a trip with our kids (10, 8 and 3) in May – Wed May 6 until Wed May 13. Is this a decent time to go? I read something about a cheerleading convention that weekend and that is concerning to me! Should I move our trip earlier? Is it going to be a struggle with these age differences? Thanks!!

36 Dave { 10.17.19 at 10:06 am }

Hi Melissa! That’s a great week–see this.

These cheering events happen all the time. While there is much fussing bout them on the internet, on an average day there’s more than 150,000 people in the parks. There’s just not enough incremental crowing from them to matter.

The three year old will be a challenge. There’s some thought on that here.

37 Mike { 11.09.19 at 11:05 am }

Hi! We are trying to set up last minute plans to DW. Looking at 12/16-17 and want to go to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. First – due to HWS having Star Wars ride opening on 12/5 are we nuts for doing this as far as crowds are concerned? Honestly the weather doesn’t phase us but am concerned about potential crowds these two days. I understand no one is a crowd prophet but should we expect doable crowds or avoid [don’t like wall to wall people] — thanks!

38 Dave { 11.09.19 at 11:36 am }

Mike, my best guess is that HS will be a mess. HS should be better 12/16 than 12/17, as 12/16 is a late MK close sandwiched between two early MK close days, so more folk will be drawn to MK 12/16, and thus away from other parks.

39 Marie { 11.11.19 at 6:38 pm }

Hi Dave! We’ll be going to Disney World January 21-28, 2019 with 2 kids and will be staying at a value resort. Can you tell me the best days to do each park or which parks to avoid on what days? Thanks so much.

40 Dave { 11.12.19 at 12:36 pm }

Hi Marie!

1/21 avoid Epcot
1/22 avoid MK
1/23 avoid Epcot
1/24 avoid MK, unless you can show up before the EMH start
1/25 no good choices. Epcot may be best, but World Showcase will be crowded
1/26 avoid HS
1/27 avoid AK
1/28 avoid Epcot

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