There are many perks when you stay at an on-site hotel during your Walt Disney World vacation. Perhaps the perkiest of these is access to Extra Magic Hours.
What are Extra Magic Hours?
Also known as EMH, Extra Magic Hours are times during the week when the theme parks are open only for guests staying at hotels on Disney property, plus a special few additional locations. This gives you more time in the parks, with fewer other guests competing for spots on the attractions.
Which hotels are the ones that have Extra Magic Hour privileges?
Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Extra Magic Hours. These hotels are:
- Art of Animation
- All-Star Movies, Music, & Sports
- Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas, Jambo & Kidani
- Beach Club & Villas
- BoardWalk & Villas
- Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campgrounds
- Caribbean Beach
- Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower Villas
- Coronado Springs
- Grand Floridian
- Old Key West
- Pop Century
- Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
- Saratoga Springs
- Wilderness Lodge & Villas
- Yacht Club
Guests of the following non-Disney-owned (but located nearby) hotels can also take advantage of Extra Magic time:
- Hilton Orlando (on Hotel Plaza Blvd.)
- Shades of Green (military lodgings)
- Walt Disney World Dolphin
- Walt Disney World Swan
Additionally, owners of the poshy, posh, posh Golden Oak homes on Disney Property (and their guests) are allowed access to Extra Magic time in the parks.
Are there any fees associated with Extra Magic Hours? Will I have to pay to participate?
No. This is included with your room for any guest staying at the hotels above. You may be thinking of the E-Ride nights that were offered about ten years ago. From 1997-2004, Disney offered fee-based extended time in the parks tickets. This program was discontinued and replaced by the current EMH program.
I’m staying at one of the hotels you mentioned. I’m psyched that I get extra time in the parks! Exactly how much extra time are we talking about?
Typically, one of the four main WDW theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) will be open to only Disney resort guests for an extra hour before regular park opening time each day (morning EMH) and a different park will be open to only Disney resort guests for an extra two hours after regular park closing time each day (evening EMH).
Please note that evening Extra Magic Hours are generally not available at the Animal Kingdom, while morning EMH are.
Someone told me that evening EMH was three hours long. Were they wrong?
Well, they used to be right. Evening EMH was three hours for a very long time, but it changed to two hours in 2013.
How do I know which park is open early and which one is open late?
Extra Magic Hours hours are noted on the general Disney Parks Times Guide you’ll be given when you check in to your resort. Note that this is not the same thing at the individual park Times Guide you’ll find at the park entrances. Get the General Times Guide at your resort or from Guest Services. If your WDW stay spans parts of two weeks, you’ll want to stop by the concierge desk at your hotel to get a new Times Guide for the second week of your stay.
If you’d like to do some advance planning, Disney posts the Extra Magic Hour information along with regular park hours on its website. During some times of the year, there is a predictability to which parks will have EMH on which days of the week; however, there are often irregularities due to holidays or special events. It’s always best to check the calendar.
Can I go to both morning EMH and evening EMH on the same day?
Yes, but only if you have a Park Hopper park ticket. If you have just a regular Disney Parks base ticket, then you can only visit one theme park per day. Extra Magic Hours have no impact on this.
One thing to note, taking advantage of both early morning and late evening Extra Magic Hours can make for a VERY long day. If you are going to attempt this, I recommend trying to work a Disney World nap into your schedule. Personally, I can’t burn the candle at both ends by doing morning and evening EMH on the same day. (Me get cranky!) But I do know some hardy souls who wouldn’t tour Walt Disney World any other way.
On second thought, now that Starbucks is in the parks, maybe I could pull it off with the assistance of a triple-shot latte
So how late will I be at the park if I stay for evening EMH?
This varies considerably depending on crowd levels and the time of year. Sometimes a park will official close at 8:00 p.m. with evening Extra Magic Hours extending this to 10:00 p.m. for Disney resort guests. At busy times of the year, EMH is MUCH later. For example, on July 3, 2013, the Magic Kingdom closed to regular guests at 1:00 a.m. (on July 4) and then remained open for Extra Magic Hours until 3:00 a.m. for resort guests. That’s a loooong day.
Typically, the later the hour of evening EMH, the lower the crowds will be, particularly toward the end of the session. It takes a special breed to be going strong on Dumbo at 2:30 in the morning.
Is the entire park open during Extra Magic Hours?
No. Only a subset of the rides at each park are open during EMH.
For example, the attractions open during morning EMH at Epcot are: Soarin’, Living with the Land, Test Track, Mission Space, and Spaceship Earth. If you’re a fan of The Seas with Nemo and Friends, you’ll have to wait until the full park opens at the end of EMH time.
Here are links to the EMH attraction lists:
- Epcot morning Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Epcot evening Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Magic Kingdom morning Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Magic Kingdom evening Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios morning Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios evening Extra Magic Hour attractions
- Animal Kingdom morning Extra Magic Hour attractions
Note that there are sometimes changes to these lists, but they generally remain fairly steady over time.
So if The Seas with Nemo and Friends is the only ride I like at Epcot (yes, I realize this is odd), does that mean I should totally skip morning Epcot EMH?
Not necessarily. Sometimes showing up during EMH will put you a position to succeed with the rides you do want to enjoy, even if they’re not on the EMH attraction list. For example, if you arrived during EMH, you would be able to put yourself at the very front of the line for The Seas, ready to go when the attraction opens. If you waited until official park opening time to arrive, then you’d be further back in the pack.
How do the cast members know that I’m a Disney resort guest?
During morning EMH, cast members at the park entrance will ask guests to show their resort IDs (room key, Key to the World Card) as they enter the park. Technically all guests are required to have their IDs on hand, even children. In my personal experience, they are somewhat lenient about letting smaller kids in during morning EMH if they don’t have IDs, but the adults with them do. You may encounter something different during your visit.
Of course, guests who have their park tickets encoded onto their room keys just need to have the one card with them. I use an annual pass to get into the parks, so I have to use both my AP and my Key to the World Card with me to take advantage of EMH.
During evening EMH, cast members at the individual attractions start to check for resort IDs. There’s some possibility that if you were not staying at an approved Disney resort, you could just sort of hang out on Main Street for a while during evening EMH, but you wouldn’t be able to get on any rides.
In years past, qualified guests were given carnival-style mylar wristbands to indicate that they could go on rides during evening EMH. This no longer happens. Instead, you’ll be allowed access to the ride queues by showing your room key. I don’t normally wear my room key around my neck on a lanyard, but this is something you may want to consider during evening EMH. Otherwise, you’ll be taking your key in and out of your pocket many times.
I’ve heard no official word about whether any of these procedures will change when the transition to full RFID ticketing and FastPass+ is complete.
Do have to be there for all of the Extra Magic Time?
Nope. As long as you’re a guest of one of the resorts listed above and have a room key and valid park admission, you can pop into EMH at any point, you don’t have to be there when it starts and you don’t have to stay for all of it.
Will Disney transportation be running to get me to the park in time for early morning EMH?
Yes. Disney starts running buses/boats/monorails one hour or more prior to park opening time. For Disney purposes, this means one hour prior to the park being open for any reason, including Extra Magic Hours.
How about at night? Can I get Disney transportation back to the hotel after evening EMH?
Similarly, the Disney transport continues to run for at least an hour after Extra Magic Hours have ended.
Will there be food available during Extra Magic Hours?
Has Disney ever let you starve? While the in-park table service restaurants will likely not be fully operational during EMH, there will always be some counter service options open whenever there are guests in the parks.
How are Extra Magic Hours different from the evening parties at Walt Disney World?
There are special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Christmas Party, & Night of Joy which extend well past regular park closing hours. These events are NOT the same as EMH. The parties are open to anyone (resort guests, day guests, Orlando residents, etc.) and they require the purchase of a separate dedicated ticket. During the parties, nearly the entire park will be open, not just select attractions, plus there will be additional entertainment and some free snack items.
Extra Magic Hours sound like a great idea. Are there any drawbacks?
Prevailing wisdom states that the morning Extra Magic park typically becomes the most crowed park later in the day. You get the early bird eager beavers (that’s an animal mash-up I’d like to see) in the park PLUS all the guests who would have shown up anyway.
My personal strategy is to go to the morning EMH park for EMH and then an extra hour or two. You can often get 6 or more headliner attractions under your belt in the first two hours of an EMH morning. After this, I’ll use my Park Hopper Annual Pass to move to another of the theme parks that may have lower crowds during the second half of the day.
So, if you have a Park Hopper, go ahead and enjoy morning EMH, and then move elsewhere. If you have regular non-Hopper ticket, you may be better off spending your day at a non EMH park, even if you’re a Disney resort guest.
Always, be sure to get to the park at least 30 minutes prior to opening time, whether you’re going to EMH opening or regular opening.
There is related evidence that the evening EMH park will become extremely crowded in the afternoon when both types of park goers overlap. If you want to utilize evening EMH, a good strategy to employ might be:
- Go back to your resort in the middle of the day so you’re rested and ready for late night touring.
- Defer going on the most popular attractions until the last 2 hours of the night, when EMH is in effect and the crowd thin out.
- Plan to visit the park the next day that had the evening Extra Magic Hours the previous night. Lots of folks have just left there hours before so it can often be less crowded.
Please bear in mind that if you asked 10 Disney “experts” this question, you’d probably get 10 different answers. My real advice is to experiment a bit and see what works best for your family.
So, Morning Larks and Night Owls, what have your Extra Magic Hour experiences been like? Are you a participator or an avoider? How did you form your opinion about EMH? Let us know in the comments below.