There are four theme parks and two water parks in Walt Disney World.
Magic Kingdom Park
This park is the most popular one, with Disney characters, the famous castle, and it provides the classic Disney experience and legendary Disney attractions, like “Haunted Mansion” or “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
The busiest day in the park is Monday. Fridays and Saturdays are also very popular.
The calmest days are Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Fluctuation during the day: waiting times are the shortest just after opening and before the park closes. Less waiting on kids rides at nap times. Smaller waiting lines during the parades and shows. Anyway, most visitors spend the whole day in the park.
This one was considered for a long time as a mostly “adult park” and has two separate sections: Future World and World Showcase. The first one features attractions that focus on energy, communication, the land and environment, imagination, transportation and space exploration. World Showcase shares with visitors the culture and cuisine of 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
The busiest days are Tuesday and Thursday, but the difference is very slight.
There are usually slightly less visitors on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Fluctuation throughout the day: there are many more visitors in the afternoon, than at the opening time.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
With a focus on the magic of Hollywood, Disney’s Hollywood Studios gives visitors the opportunity to travel back in time to Hollywood’s heyday of the 1930s and ’40s. This park features 8 sections: Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Streets of America, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue and Animation Courtyard areas.
The busiest day is Wednesday, weekends are also very crowded (due to local visitors).
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday see the smallest crowds.
Fluctuation during the day: remains very high right from the opening time, with particular peaks at the time of the afternoon parade and towards the end of the park day, at the time of the park’s nighttime show.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This is one of the largest animal theme parks in the world, with more than 1,700 animals across 250 species. You will be able to explore 6 lands: Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand, U.S.A. areas.
The busiest days are Monday to Wednesday.
The calmest days Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Fluctuation during the day: the park closes earlier than other Walt Disney World parks, and crowds form strongly in the morning with a peak during the afternoon parade. There’s no show in the evening, therefore you’ll see way less visitors in the afternoon.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach are both water parks and crowds vary a lot throughout the year depending on the weather. Keep in mind that both of them close for refurbishing one after another in winter, so you’d probably have no choice between the parks if coming during that season. Otherwise, check Walt Disney World’s website to decide which of the two you prefer, they both offer waterslides, different pools, beaches, dining options and activities. Typhoon Lagoon is slightly more popular and is probably better suited for the whole family, while Blizzard Beach has more “thrills”.
Fluctuation during the day: the first hours after the opening and the last hours before the closing time are the calmest.
Photo credits to Sam Howzit via Flickr
Top time-saving tips for your visit
1) Master how to use Fastpass and use it wisely. You can skip the queue for 3 attractions in one park per day per ticket, and you can book your time for those attractions up to 30 days before your visit (even 60 days if you’re staying at Walt Disney Resort). There are different rules for different parks: you can book any three rides/shows/meets and greeting in Magical Kingdom, for example, but for Hollywood Studios and Epcot there’s a tier system: you can choose only one of the top attractions (tier 1) and 2 of the rides left. Of course, you’d better see the average waiting time to make your choice: the longer the waiting line usually takes, the more valuable your Fastpass will be.
Since the queues in the morning are the smallest, some prefer waiting in the standby queue while it’s short and booking Fastpasses for the peak hours (11:00-15:00). Another good option would be to book your Fastpasses for the morning time, as once you’ve used them all - you can grab a new one at Fastpass+ Kiosk (there are plenty of them everywhere in the park). In some cases you’ll be able to use about 7 Fastpasses and more per day with this strategy. Just book the top rides for the morning and try to do them as early as possible, as the Fastpasses available in the afternoon will be mostly for second-tier rides, but there will always be some left, even during peak season.
2) Arrive early. It’s worth arriving about half an hour before opening time in high season to take advantage of the calm hours in Walt Disney World. The park gets packed by 11:00 and it would be wise to head to the most popular rides right at the opening, before crowds arrive.
3) Use the “Rider Switch” if coming with children. You will need to bring your entire family to the front of the qualifying attraction and ask the cast member for a Rider Switch pass. There’s no difference if you’re going to stand in the normal line or use the Fastpass. The adult that stays with the child waits for the family to complete the ride. When they return, that adult can now use the child swap and goes directly to the ride with this pass without any wait. It’s valid at any time during the day, so he/she can collect it to use later in the day.
4) Take lunch earlier or later than others. It’s essential if you don’t want to waste an hour and a half in a crowded restaurant or spend half an hour in the queue to buy some fast food. Plus, the waiting times at the rides get a bit shorter when most visitors are having their lunch.
5) Have a plan for the parade time in Magical Kingdom. It doesn’t matter if you want to watch it or to ride the attractions while they have shorter waiting times, be sure about half an hour before the parade start time that you’re in the part of the park you’d like to stay at. The parade will cut Magical Kingdom in two parts, and you won’t be allowed to cross the main road during the parade. For example, those who find themselves on the Adventureland side will be unable to cross over to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. So if you do not plan on viewing the parade and want to ride a particular attraction make sure you are where you need to be before the parade starts.
Photo credits to Michael Gray via Flickr
Crowds at Disney World by the month
Avoid the first week of the month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day’s weekend. The rest of the month has small crowds, especially the second part of it.
Avoid the period from February 15 through February 22 that will have much bigger crowds than usual, due to President’s Day. The rest of the month is calm and you won’t face long queues.
It’s one of the busiest months of the year in Walt Disney World. Prefer going during the first week, because big crowds start to appear right after.
The Easter week is one of the busiest periods of the year, right after Christmas. The week before is also expected to have higher waiting times. The second half of the month will be calm, though busier compared to calm days in January or September.
The first half of May is a great time without high crowds. Avoid however the days preceding the Memorial Day Weekend and the week of the holiday as those are the most crowded days of the month.
The summer season starts and sees the summer crowds. Prefer the beginning of the month, as some children are still at school, and crowds are slightly smaller compared to the rest of the month.
July is the very busiest month of the entire year at Walt Disney World, you won’t be able to avoid crowds! Avoid the week of July 4th, this one will be the most insane!
August still gets high visitors’ numbers during the first half of the month. Give preference to going during the last week - it’s much quieter.
This is the best time of the year to visit Walt Disney World: while crowds are the smallest, the weather is still good and there are lots of events and festivities in the park.
Crowds are a bit bigger than in September, but can’t be compared to those of summer or Christmas periods. Avoid Saturdays.
This is also one of the best months to visit WDW, with low crowds and a number of activities. Beware that the week after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest of the year, it’s better to plan your visit for the first half of the month.
December could be divided in 2 parts: while the first two weeks see low or medium crowds and offer great festivities of the Christmas season, the second part of the month is the busiest period of the year, with exceptional crowds from December 23 to January 1. Try to avoid these days, as all the parks are packed, and waiting times of about 3 hours may be an average for the most popular rides.
Photo credits to HarshLight via Flickr
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Opening hours vary a lot during the year and aren't the same for all parks.
Be sure to check them before your visit on the official website.