WDW Park Hours: What to Expect in December

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Here at TouringPlans.com we spend a lot of time honing our predictions to make our Crowd Calendar the most accurate available. One of the many methods we employ is projecting park hours for all of Disney’s Florida theme parks. You may be wondering why we bother since Disney World publishes its park hours for all to see. Well, Disney does not always make things easy (as outlined here).

The published hours are available for the next six months (currently through March), but they are simply preliminary hours. Disney doesn’t create an operational schedule for its employees that far in advance. Using things like hotel occupancy rates and dining reservations, Disney reviews all hours for a given month approximately two weeks prior to the start of that month (for instance, October’s adjusted hours should be released on or around┬áSeptember 17) and makes changes to its park hours.

How often are park hours changed two weeks before the start of a month? This post will give you idea of what to expect when December hours are adjusted. And the chart below shows what the final park hours were for Walt Disney World in December 2011.

The numbers in red are December 2011 dates that changed when park hours were adjusted in mid-November last year.

There are a few things you should notice about this chart:

  • As mentioned above, these are the final park hours from last year (I want to make that very clear); final hours for this December (2012) have not yet been released.
  • The period starting Christmas week and carrying through New Years is very, very┬ábusy, which is why the hours were all expanded last year during that week. You can expect similar long days this year as well as similar crowd levels.
  • The opening times for all parks change very rarely (with the obvious exception being during the busy Christmas and New Year period).
  • Epcot times change very, very rarely (which is why they are not listed).
  • Speaking of Epcot, the preliminary hours for that park show it will be open until 9:30pm (instead of the usual 9pm) during the entire month. I do not expect that time to change except for New Year’s Eve, which will probably change to 1am.
  • Wishes is performed once per night, except on days where there is a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (December 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 2012). Changes in December are very rare, so we have not listed Wishes because of this.
  • The days that have Extra Magic Hours almost never change.
  • Closing times for the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as the number of performances of the Main Street Electrical Parade and Fantasmic!, are highly variable at peak times.
  • Early December has many peaks and valleys as seen by the sporadic red on that chart, and that makes it a tricky month to predict. The end of the month is easy to predict because Disney will push the hours to thier limits to accommodate the massive crowds. One thing you should be aware of is that Disney has been reluctant this summer to extend the Magic Kingdom’s closing time to the extremes, such as 1am (like on December 3, 2011). 11pm closings are becoming more normal rather than those very late weekend nights (not applicable to Christmas and New Years week).

So the real question is what you should expect for this year. Since we started actively tracking park hour changes, we have noticed that the previous year is quite a good predictor of the upcoming changes. We do make some adjustments for our internal calculations, but the chart above should give you a good idea for planning purposes.

One thing to remember is to compare days of the week rather than numerical dates. For instance, if you are traveling from Sunday, December 9, through Saturday, December 15, 2012 you would look at the second Sunday through the third Saturday from last year (December 11-17, 2011). Please also keep in mind that this chart is one of many references for you to use in planning your trip and is not necessarily the exact operating times.

I hope you find this information useful. As you may have guessed by now, this is going to be a regular feature. I am still in the process of “catching up” to the currently available Walt Disney World calendar (currently through March). Once I have caught it, I will post these as the new preliminary hours are released.

Thanks!

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Posted on August 28, 2012

11 Responses to “WDW Park Hours: What to Expect in December”

  • On mornings where a park opens at 8:00, does that mean the extra magic hour starts at 7:00 (or do they just not have EMH on 8:00 mornings)? Wow, that’s early!

  • Been waiting for this one – thanks!

  • Yay! Thanks!!!

  • How far in advance does Disney announce when the Christmas parade will be taped? Is this typically on a MVMCP day or a non-party day? We are going the first week and aren’t attending MVMCP.

  • by Terri Torrez on August 28, 2012, at 7:02 pm EDT

    What time do they usually run Fantasmic for a second showing?

  • by Terri Torrez on August 28, 2012, at 7:10 pm EDT

    Last year Pop Warner party was on Thurs, Dec 8 so the park closed early. This year it’s on a Wednesday. Is it reasonable to predict a second Fantasmic on that Thursday?

  • by Terri Torrez on August 28, 2012, at 7:22 pm EDT

    Also, have Fantasmic additions been predictable based on last year — given the change from a couple shows a week to every day?

  • Has the effect of the New Fantasyland opening on Dec 6 been factored into crowd calendar yet? I am very disappointed it isnt opening in November as this will be our first Christmas trip and we dont want crowds….
    Thanks!

    • Yes, we have considered the impact of the New Fantasyland opening, but we are unsure about the impact it will have on wait times for the rest of the park. We do recommend avoiding the Magic Kingdom if you are not interested in New Fantasyland.

      As far as not opening in November, previews will be starting on November 19 and the Be Our Guest Restaurant began taking reservations starting that day. Enchanted Tales with Belle is already testing and finishing work is being done on the rest. Depending on when your trip is, you should be able to see at least some, if not all, of New Fantasyland.