Interpreting Park Hours

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Knowledge of a park’s operating hours is fairly crucial to fully enjoying your Walt Disney World vacation (especially if you love a good rope drop).  For some reason over the last few years, Disney has increasingly messed with their hours.  Today, I want to give you the full rundown of how the hours are released and what we at TouringPlans.com are doing to help you plan your perfect trip.  Remember, knowing is half the battle.

How Walt Disney World Handles Park Hours

There are three stages of grief when it comes to Walt Disney World hours:

  1. Approximately 6 months prior to any given month, Disney releases hours and parade/fireworks schedules.  These are usually released on the Disney Travel Agent site first (sorry, travel agents only), with the official site updating a few days later.
  2. Next, about 2 weeks before the start of a month, the entire schedule is updated for that month.  This usually means later closing times and extra parades or nighttime shows.  This update is released solely on the Disney Travel Agent website.
  3. A few days after step 2, the same update is loaded onto the Walt Disney World official website.  When this is done, there are often a few minor changes from the updates that were previously shown on the Travel Agent website.

As you can see, Disney does not make tracking park hours easy.  If you check a date in August right now, you may find that Magic Kingdom closes at 10pm and has one Main Street Electrical Parade scheduled.  However, if you look next week, that same day may show Magic Kingdom closing at midnight with two parades.

We anticipate that the changes will not be as widespread in the off-season as they have been in the peak times, but there will still be changes.  The best thing you can do is stay flexible, assume there will be changes, and (most importantly) keep checking TouringPlans.com.

How TouringPlans.com Makes it All Better

As you are undoubtedly aware, there is a wonderful Crowd Calendar on this site that can help you decide the best time for your trip.  Accurate park hours and parade and show days are part of the (giant, impressive, Stephen Hawking-worthy) equations that make up the calendar projections, so it makes it a little bit tougher when Disney keeps messing with the schedule.

For the past few months we have been tracking the park hour changes and working that research into a better, more accurate Crowd Calendar.   This means two things for your planning pleasure:

  1. TouringPlans.com is updating as quickly as possible with all of the park hour changes, so you can feel secure about the
    information you find here.
  2. With more accurate park schedule information, the Crowd Calendar will need to change less frequently, making your long-term planning even easier.

Stat Geek? This One’s For You

If you don’t like things such as numbers or maths, look away.  If you are like me and love a good statistical analysis, try not to get too excited.

[I have analyzed all park hours for the past 13 months (July 2010 through July 2011).  When I refer to a “change,” I mean an adjustment between the schedule Disney initially put out (step 1 above) and the final schedule.]

  • During peak times, the Magic Kingdom’s closing time changes 74% of the time.  During non-peak times, it changes only 10%.
  • Changes are made to the Main Street Electrical Parade (shows added) 79% of the time during peak times, but only 12% of the time otherwise.
  • Epcot’s closing time only changes 1% of the time, so you can be fairly certain with at least that one.
  • The closing time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios changes 68% of the time during peak season and 39% during off-peak.  Overall, this is the park most likely to change hours.
  • In addition to closing time, Fantasmic! shows are commonly added.  In fact, they are added 63% of the time during peak times and 30% of the time otherwise.
  • Lastly, Animal Kingdom’s closing time changes 63% of the time during peak times and 16% during non-peak.

As you can see, that’s a lot of changing.  Overall, during peak times, closing times are likely to change 52% of the time and opening times 13%.  During off-peak; 16% for closing and 1% for opening.

At TouringPlans.com, we are doing our best to make sure you have the most and best information available.  Hopefully this helps.

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Posted on July 18, 2011

11 Responses to “Interpreting Park Hours”

  • THIS is one of the many reasons I love you guys/gals at Touring Plans!!!!! It is beyond awesome to log in and pull up the crowd calendar knowing that you have taken into account all of these bazillion variables! Keep up the good work and thank you, thank you, thank you :)

  • by Andrew Drummond on July 18, 2011, at 2:02 pm EDT

    A quick question (from another who is math inclined): You mention above that the changes are primarily to extend the hours. What is the split of that?

    For example, if Disney changes Magic Kingdom hours 74% of the time, is it 70% of the time that it adds hours and 4% that it cuts them?

    Also, what are the peak seasons for this calculation? (Sorry, that question is a newbie one)

    • No problem Andrew. The split is easy, it’s almost all additions. In the past 14 months hours have only been subtracted twice, both for special events (and I’m not sure which events off the top of my head, sorry).

      The peak times are mostly the days that Disney considers peak (i.e. they charge more for hotels). Those are the entire summer (up until the third week of August), holiday weekends, Christmas week, Marathon weekend, and Spring Break. There are a few other days around holidays that are historically busy also, but that’s where it comes from.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Very interesting statistics! It’s amazing how even a math-anxious girl like myself, is quivering with excitement over Disney math. Could this be a new genre of geek-dom?

  • I was starting to suspect something along the lines you described for the change patterns. Thank you, Brian, for filling it in with actual facts! (I <3 math!)

  • Disney math nerds unite!!

  • Yep, this is why I love this site! We try to make every minute count when we’re at WDW, and the fact that you all are keeping such close tabs on all this stuff is so incredibly helpful. Thanks!

  • by B.J. Herbison on July 20, 2011, at 4:00 am EDT

    Suggested feature for your site: Allow registered users to specify their Disney days, and you send e-mail when park hours for those days are updated (along with the new hours and links to the information for the days).

  • Thank you for posting this. For our visit last year, July 2011, we loved that MK was open until 3am with EMH. So this year we thought we’d follow the same plan even though it’s a bit of extra money compared visiting to a month later. But with the recent release of the calendar/hours they are only open until 1am. I thought about changing our plans until I read this. I am hoping for 3am in July 2012!! :)